Three North East trusts launch new service to support British sign language users

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Cumbria, Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust have launched a new service designed to support British Sign Language (BSL) users when attending hospital.  

The BSL Health Navigators service – provided in collaboration with Deaflink, a Newcastle-based charity offering support to D/deaf, Deafblind, hard-of-hearing and Deafened people and their families across the North East – will help patients understand information, liaise with health staff regarding interpreter bookings, and will see ward staff work to ensure inpatients have the right communication support.  

Additionally, the new service will provide support in advance of hospital appointments, as well as help inpatients prepare for discharge and understand information that has been communicated to them during their stay. 

According to the trusts, the new service will mean patients can access support and guidance to ‘overcome the communication barriers that affect Deaf people’ when attending hospitals within the region.  

Heidi Jobling, Deaflink, commented on the new service: “We are delighted to be offering this new service and thank the three trusts involved for their recognition of the issues that are faced by Deaf patients and BSL users when they go to hospital. 

“We know from a number of studies that there is a higher-than-average prevalence of other conditions among the Deaf community, which do not derive from deafness, and most are preventable, if the known communication and accessibility barriers are overcome.” 

Fardeen Choudhury, Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We want to provide the best experience and care we can to Deaf patients, and we understand it can be an anxious time for anyone when they visit hospital, so we are delighted to be working in collaboration with Deaflink, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Cumbria, Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust to support BSL users when they come to our hospitals.”