Getting the basics right for people who are Deaf

Thanks to Sandra, NHS England is improving the way they communicate with people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

Being admitted to hospital can be a stressful experience for anyone. Now imagine you can’t understand what the doctors are saying about your medicine, care or when you can go home. For Deaf people, this can be a reality if services don’t provide the right support.

One volunteer, Sandra, has been campaigning for the rights of Deaf people for over 10 years. She heard about a Deaf lady who was admitted to hospital without a BSL interpreter. The hospital staff assumed the patient could lip read, which meant they were misdiagnosed and prescribed the wrong medication.

Working with Healthwatch Northamptonshire and local charity Deafconnect, Sandra found this wasn’t an isolated incident and over 20 people had made similar complaints in the past six months.

Together they raised the issue with the CCG in the first instance. They highlighted the difficulties Deaf people face when a BSL interpreter isn’t provided, which mean booking appointments was harder and appointments could be cancelled, causing delays in treatment and wasting staff time.

Frustrated by a lack of response from the CCG, Sandra escalated her concerns to NHS England, who agreed there were issues with staff awareness of using and booking interpreters.

NHS England has committed to review how Deaf people’s communications needs are recorded by services, as well as providing more training for health professionals.

Local primary care services are also providing online and face to face BSL interpreters to people who are deaf and hard of hearing as a direct result of Sandra’s work.

Thanks to Sandra, Deaf people in Northamptonshire will not only have better support in place, but are also more aware of where to go to make their views heard.


The more that people share their ideas, experiences and concerns about NHS and social care, the more services can understand when improvements are needed. But, to make the biggest difference, we need to hear from more people. 

You can make a difference. Find out more about our #ItStartsWithYou campaign or share your experience with your local Healthwatch and help make services better for your community. It starts with you.

Do health and social care services know what you really think?

Share your ideas and experiences and help services hear what works, what doesn’t, and what you want from care in the future. 

Speak to your local Healthwatch