Hospital appointments are often full of complex terms and explanations for what is wrong with you. Imagine receiving that information in a language that isn’t your first language.
This is quite often the case for deaf people who identify British Sign Language as their chosen language.
A survey run by many leading deaf charities and groups, including Sign Health, the British Deaf Association and the Association for Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) found evidence to suggest that hospitals may not always be using qualified, registered sign language interpreters.
Sign Health’s Chief Executive Steve Powell believes there are many reasons why qualified, registered interpreters are not being used. Ranging from interpreter agencies not getting enough notice to cost saving measures.
Do deaf people need a qualified interpreter at every appointment when they could use a family member? Steve is strongly against expecting family members to interpret for a patient and believes it is “morally wrong”.
Steve also pointed out within hospitals, many different people are responsible for sign language interpreters. These people he believes, are “not proactive” and it will take something to go wrong before the system is investigated.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health, told Falling on Deaf Ears: “If a patient requires translation or interpretation services it is the responsibility of their local NHS Trust to ensure it employs the services of an interpreter who has the necessary knowledge and understanding required. NHS trusts are expected to take great care when choosing an interpreter.”
It is up to NHS Trust in question to ensure that the interpreters they book are up to the job, but the Department of Health’s guidelines do not specify any mandatory qualifications.
Head of Patient Advice Liaison Services at Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Amanda Colman said: “We strive to have interpreters who are members of the Association of Sign Language Interpreters who are fully qualified and registered for four main criteria. They are; relaying of bad news, treatment planning, obtaining consent for investigations and feeding back results. For more trivial matters, a qualified interpreter is not always needed.”