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Improving GP services for Deaf patients


With more than 11 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, it is important that health services understand their needs. Find out about the action Healthwatch Worcestershire took when concerns were raised about accessing local GP services.  

Man at reception desk

Why did you look into this issue?

The Deaf community in Worcestershire has been telling us about the difficulties people face accessing GP services. For example, it is quite common for people to miss their GP appointment because they do not hear their name being called whilst sitting in reception.

What did you find out?

We surveyed all 68 GP practices across Worcestershire to find out what adjustments have been made to cater for Deaf patients and those who are hard of hearing.

We found that there is not currently a consistent approach to accessibility in the area, for example:

  • Access to interpreter services
    We heard that the waiting time for interpreter services ranged from two weeks to no wait at all. However, 46% of respondents did not know whether there was a waiting time for this service.

  • Awareness of access needs
    Over half of GP practices were unable to identify profoundly Deaf patients (54%) and 14% were unable to identify patients who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

  • Staff awareness
    Less than half of GP surgeries we surveyed provide Deaf awareness training to their staff and only 21% have staff trained in British Sign Language.

We published a report outlining our findings and eight recommendations for how GP services could be improved for Deaf patients. We also shared it with those who commission and provide local GP services, as well as NHS England and the Care Quality Commission (CQC).  

 Related items

What has been the long term impact?

NHS England has requested that we do a follow-up survey to find out what changes have been made, particularly in regards to the Accessible Information Standard, which is due to come into force this summer. 

We were invited to present our findings to a CQC Inspectors Regional Development Day with our local Deaf charity – Deaf Direct. As a result of this the CQC has used the report and recommendations to inform inspections of primary care services. For example, they have included further questions in their GP inspections to understand the accessible information needs of patients and how these are reported.  

Andy Brand, CQC Inspection Manager (Central Region) said:  “We have had a lot of really positive feedback about the whole day.  The presentation was particularly powerful and thought-provoking […] it will directly contribute to the way we carry out our inspections across the region and the questions we ask to probe how well the practice cares for its patients who are Deaf or have a hearing impairment”.

Read Healthwatch Worcestershire’s full report

Do want to share your feedback about visiting your GP?

If you would like to share your experience about visiting a health or care service, get in contact with your local Healthwatch.

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