Access to Health and Social Care Services as experienced by people with a Sensory Impairment

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Stockton-on-Tees undertook research about the experience of people with sensory impairments of health and social care.  They engaged with a total of 35 members of the community, 10 of which had a hearing impairment, 22 who had a sight impairment and three people who had both a hearing and sight impairment.


Some felt that the Ophthalmology department of the local hospital carries out vision tests every time they had an appointment.   They suggested that It was suggested that a simple ‘colour coding’ system could be used whereby. Some attendees also raised concerns that they are regularly being requested to attend diabetic retinopathy screening when this is not required, even though they have tried to tell the service about this.

Concerns were raised about the accessibility self-service check-in screens at GP surgeries for people with a visual impairment.  People also commented on the accessibility of GP surgery waiting rooms and appointment booking systems. Most GP practices now have online appointment booking systems which are available for people with a hearing impairment., but many of the people spoken to don’t have access to a computer. 

Healthwatch gathered a lot of positive feedback about access to dentists by those with a sensory impairment.

In relation to social care for people with a visual impairment, the consensus was that Stockton-on-Tees Adult Social Care Services are very responsive, particularly in relation to providing adaptations to homes.   In contrast people with hearing impairments experienced problems contacting social services.

Service users with visual impairments received information about appointments in a variety of ways, but none had ever been asked which they preferred.  People with hearing impairments found text messages to be the best way of communicating.  They found it difficult to change appointment times, as they had to ring to do so.

People were concerned that they were picked up very early by the Patient Transport Service to go to their appointment. Despite this, the feedback about the Patient Transport Service was positive.

People who needed to book a BSL interpreter for appointments experienced problems, including interpreters not turning up and the variable quality of interpreters.  People with hearing impairments had problems with booking emergency GP appointments due to the need to book an interpreter well in advance.


There were eight detailed recommendations about different aspects of making health and social care accessible for people with sensory impairments.   

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General details

Report title 
Access to Health and Social Care Services as experienced by people with a Sensory Impairment
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Stockton-on-tees
Date of publication 
Wednesday, 12 February, 2020
Date evidence capture began 
Tuesday, 1 January, 2019
Date evidence capture finished 
Sunday, 31 March, 2019
Type of report 
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Building and facilities
Communication between staff and patients
Digitalisation of services
Quality of appointment
Staff attitudes
Staff training
Waiting time to be seen once arrived at appointment
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
Engagement event
Focus group
How was the information collected? 
Engagement Event
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
Dentist (non-hospital)
GP practice
Secondary care services 
Social care services 
Adult social care

Details about conditions and diseases

Types of disabilities 
Vision impairment

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
Not known
Not known
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Not known
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Not known
Does the information include staff's views? 
Does the information include other people's views? 
Not known
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.