See Hear Now: Access to health and wellbeing services for people with sensory impairments and learning disabilities

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Lewisham engaged with 57 people who are either deaf, blind, or have a learning disability, throughout 2016 and late 2015. The work was done as part of an engagement programme to identify the experience of people with disabilities how they access health services. The report identifies several key issues. Booking a GP appointment is difficult. Due to the lack of interpreters for deaf patients, GP appointments were either cancelled or are difficult to book. People did not always know if they were eligible for an interpreter. Advocacy services for people with disabilities were limited or not sufficient. Blind patients did not always know when it was their turn while waiting at the GP waiting room. Communication between staff and patients was difficult. GPs sometimes look at the computer instead of facing a patient. This was difficult for deaf patients to lip-read their GP during the appointment. Some GPs or nurses keep talking to patient even when they know they are deaf. Health services were generally seen as not accessible, either due to lack of information, information available was not suitably displayed or staff were not aware how to respond to a patient with disability. The report makes the following recommendations. • Ensure disability awareness training for ‘front-line’ staff and implement simple measures to ensure that communication needs are met. • Widen the availability of available technology such as video interpreting and text alerts. • Clarify BSL interpretation eligibility and ensure patients have access to relevant information on how to book BSL interpreters. • Increase availability of interpreters for deaf people. • Install visual displays and voice alerts in reception areas to enable the deaf and people with visual impairments, to know when it is their turn for an appointment. Alternatively, train relevant staff to alert disabled patients of their appointment in an appropriate way. • Enable ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure equality of access for disabled people. • Ensure that all written communication directed to patients is written in accessible formats. Provide all possible contact details to ensure both deaf and blind people can contact your service. Ensure contact information (including emails) is easily found. • Ensure the sustainability of the current advocacy services and increase the service provision to meet the demand and need. • GPs and Consultants to make appropriate adjustments to treatment processes and procedures, including discharge, to ensure disabled people have an equitable experience of services. • Ensure there is a system in place that alerts health and social care staff of the patients’ disability and their additional needs. • Engage with disabled people in the development of the service to allow for the coproduction of an efficient and effective health service. No response was included in the report

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General details

Report title 
See Hear Now: Access to health and wellbeing services for people with sensory impairments and learning disabilities
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Lewisham
Date of publication 
Thursday, 20 October, 2016
Date evidence capture began 
Thursday, 7 May, 2015
Date evidence capture finished 
Saturday, 3 September, 2016
Type of report 
Key themes 
Quality of treatment
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
Unstructured Interview
How was the information collected? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
GP practice

Details about conditions and diseases

Types of disabilities 
Learning or understanding or concentrating
Vision impairment
Types of long term conditions 
Blindness or severe visual impairment
Deafness or severe hearing impairment
Learning disability

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
Specific ethnicity if 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? 
Does the information include other people's views? 
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? 

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.