Improving the experience at the doctors surgery for patients affected by hearing loss and deaf patients in Norfolk and Waveney

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Norfolk was commissioned by Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Care Group to explore how digital technology could improve access to primary care for people who are Deaf or affected by hearing loss. They undertook a survey and interviews with those who are Deaf or affected by hearing loss and through consulting with stakeholders. They spoke to 183 people in total.

They found that most people who are Deaf or affected by hearing loss always or sometimes have difficulty making appointments, knowing when the doctor is ready for them and communicating with their doctor. Most people use some type of technology in their day to day lives and that most respondents were open to trying out technology in their surgery to aid communication.

Feedback from the survey and interviews identified that a lack of awareness of the issues faced by those who are Deaf or affected by hearing loss exacerbates the barriers to communication. Respondents expressed frustration that staff still chose to telephone them even though their records should show that they were Deaf or had hearing loss. The barriers for those who use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first language are greater as not all BSL users are confident with the written word.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added some additional barriers for those who are Deaf or affected by hearing loss, mostly commonly the use of masks, which make it harder to hear and understand people but also hinder those who rely on being able to lip-read. Many people with hearing loss rely on “informal” lip-reading to enhance their communication. The COVID-19 pandemic did mean that some surgeries increased their use of their websites to make appointments, which was broadly welcomed.

As a result of the feedback from the survey, interviews, and consultation with stakeholders a pilot project was designed to run in a number of doctors’ surgeries that expressed an interest in participating in the pilot. Participating surgeries were asked to read and adopt the “Hearing Loss and Deaf Friendly Charter”, which was developed to give guidance and information on what doctors’ surgeries should have in place to improve their accessibility for those who are Deaf or affected by hearing loss. The steps identified in the Charter included hearing loss awareness training for staff, improvement in the information held on the patient record about hearing loss, improving accessibility to booking BSL Interpreters for appointments, providing information on support for hearing loss and mental health issues. The doctors’ surgeries that signed up to the pilot were issued with three pieces of technology to use with their patients: vibrating pagers, personal listeners, and portable hearing loops.

Healthwatch Norfolk asked the surgeries to complete a survey on how they found using the equipment and to get feedback from the patients. The pilot project ran for a period of six weeks. Staff and patient feedback on the equipment was positive. The personal listening devices appear to have been the best received. The vibrating pagers were useful in helping to manage social distancing by allowing patients to wait away from the waiting room, which was helpful to those who were anxious about contact with others. Norfolk and Waveney CCG funded Hearing Loss Awareness training for the surgeries that participated in the pilot project. All the surgeries accessed this training for their staff and feedback showed that it increased awareness and that staff had a better understanding how to communicate with those who are Deaf or affected by hearing loss.

Following the end of the pilot the participating surgeries are keen to continue to provide the technology for their patients to use as they have experienced how it can positively improve communication.

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General details

Report title 
Improving the experience at the doctors surgery for patients affected by hearing loss and deaf patients in Norfolk and Waveney
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Norfolk
Date of publication 
Monday, 30 May, 2022
Date evidence capture began 
Saturday, 31 July, 2021
Date evidence capture finished 
Wednesday, 15 September, 2021
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Communication between staff and patients
Health inequalities
Information providing
Service delivery organisation and staffing

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
What type of organisation requested the work 
Primary research method used 
Structured interview
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 
GP practice

Details about conditions and diseases

Types of disabilities 
What type of pregnancy or maternity themes are included in the report 

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
1-15 years
16-17 years
18-24 years
25-64 years
65-85 years
85 +
Prefer not to say
Not known
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
Types of health and care professionals engaged 
Service manager
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? 
Yes action has been taken or promised
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known
What type of impact was determined? 
Tangible Impact (cost related)

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.