Health services for the deaf and blind in Essex have been slammed in a new report on the county’s care services.
The latest public engagement project from Healthwatch Essex – the independent charity that provides a voice for the people of Essex on health and care services – has highlighted the significant issues of more than 180,000 people with sensory impairments face when accessing and using health and care services in the county.
In 2016, the Accessible Information Standard was introduced, making it a legal requirement for all NHS or adult social care organisations to make sure that people who have a disability, impairment or sensory loss are provided with information they can easily read or understand and to communicate effectively. Despite this, Healthwatch Essex’s new report highlights a range of difficulties people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, sight impaired or severely sight impaired or Deafblind experience on a regular basis.
Key findings of the report are the impact on dignity and quality of life and the loss of autonomy and confidentiality. Many participants highlighted the fact they often needed to get a family member or carer to make appointments for them, which was inconvenient and in some cases compromised their patient confidentiality. Regular problems included stiff and rigid booking systems, poor recording and sharing of information and people not receiving information and communication in their preferred format.
Dr Tom Nutt, Healthwatch Essex Chief Executive, said: “One profoundly deaf participant told us that when she asked a receptionist: ‘How do deaf people make appointments?’, her reply was to shrug her shoulders and say: ‘We’ve never had a complaint before’.
“A blind participant told us of an experience where a receptionist told him to, ‘go and take a seat over there!’. Not thinking that ‘over there’ could be construed as just a tad ambiguous by a blind person! “People told us what they most valued was to be treated as an individual so they can take control where possible.”
He added: “They don’t want to repeat their story at each consultation and they want to encounter friendly, helpful staff who provide them with information in a format that is suitable for them. Doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”