2 January 2017
Whistleblower — “The deaf are still being failed. Nothing has changed.”
The Courier has learnt complaints are regularly made by deaf people over a lack of access to sign language interpreters.
A key figure within Dundee’s charitable sector for the deaf and hard of hearing claims an “inflexible” booking system is leading to interpreters failing to make medical appointments for people reliant on their services.
It’s further claimed a basic lack of awareness on the part of doctors and medical staff is leading to interpreters often not being booked when necessary.
The complaints, its said, have all been passed to NHS Tayside, but very little has been addressed.
The allegations come just two years after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) intervened in the case of an elderly Perth woman left in hospital for six days without access to an interpreter.
Claiming nothing has improved since then, the whistleblower said: “Deaf people are still turning up to appointments and there is no one there.
“It’s not the interpreter’s problem, they’re there to do a job and are frustrated too.
“It’s the booking system that isn’t flexible enough.
“Interpreters are only given a yes or no option and can’t come back and say: “I can’t do four o’clock, but I can do quarter past”.
“We’re meant to be moving towards a situation where interpreters are booked before an appointment is made, but that is not happening.”
The whistleblower continued: “People working in doctor surgeries and hospitals also often don’t see BSL (British Sign Language) as a language and think deaf people can lip read.
“One deaf man was admitted to hospital three times in January and each time it took at least three days before they got an interpreter in — and that was only after his family kicked up.
“Two years are up, but there doesn’t seem to have been any real noticeable change.”
NHS Tayside Diversity and Inclusion Manager Santosh Chima insisted the healthboard has worked closely with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to deploy a “high quality, person-centred service”.
She said: “NHS Tayside has worked with the Equality and Human Rights Commission over the last two years to make improvements to interpretation and translation services.
“We meet with representatives of the deaf community through the Health and Deaf Action Group which has been set up to involve, consult and engage with deaf service users to help shape and improve access to NHS services.
“Currently NHS Tayside is in the process of reviewing its contract with Dundee Translation and Interpreting Services.
“We will be carrying out a full options appraisal process, in partnership with deaf and deafblind communities, to ensure that we continue to deliver a high quality, person-centred service that is fit for the future.”