Audience participation time – that is, if you live in England. A while ago I wrote about a new piece of legislation applying to the NHS in England (and indeed care homes, although I am concentrating on the NHS today). A new Accessible Information Standard means that, since 31 July, all parts of the NHS have been obliged to ask all new and existing patients whether or not they have any communication difficulties – caused by hearing loss for example. Ta da! What an excellent thing! Visibility!
If you have, the health provider is meant to record the problem, and, in future, provide the help that you need to access the service. Ta Da! Another excellent thing! Action!
Bugbears about NHS communication problems abound in hearing loss blogs, Facebook pages and so on – not being able to hear when your name is called for your appointment, not fully understanding what the doctor said, having to phone to make an appointment when you can no longer cope with the telephone etc. You can read all this explained a little more fully in an earlier post (please don’t gesture at me) including the details of what the legislation says the NHS has to do.
Three months in, Action on Hearing Loss are trying to find out what impact the legislation has had, so they can report this back to NHS England before they review the impact of the Standard early next year.
My own experience??
Because I doggedly tell all medical people about my hearing loss immediately I see them (“Good morning Mrs Brearey – take a seat”. “Thanks, may I just explain that I’m very deaf? I need to see your face to understand what you are saying because I lip read”) it seemed a bit unfair to point out that the nurse at our local practice hadn’t asked me about communication problems. But I thought I’d ask at Reception on the way out, where I got a complete blank look and “never heard of it – what did you say this legislation is about?” (She did say she was quite new to the job).
Then on Monday I had a blood test taken at my local hospital. They have quite a good (hearing loss friendly) system in their blood test waiting room. You take a ticket when you go in and a contraption at the front of the room tells you which number is currently being seen (or “being bled” as they call it in the notices telling you what the system is – odd! – even weirder is that the notice is decorated with vampires……). Then, when it’s your turn, the display changes to show your number at the same time as the nurse calls it out, so all quite easy for us deaf people.
Then you follow the nurse into the treatment room (should it be the bleeding room?) and she says ……. “something, something, something” because she has her back to you.
Another “may I explain that I’m very deaf? blah-di-blah” and all was well. I was bled successfully! I then asked about the Accessible Information Standard. Had she heard of it? She had a vague recollection of having heard of the term, but couldn’t recall what it meant. When I described it she was very enthusiastic and said that she would very much welcome a system that alerted her in advance to people with hearing loss so that she didn’t, as she put it, “mumble away with my back turned”. Wonderful! All we need to do now is implement this system. (Why is everything so difficult?)
On the way home I remembered that both the appointment with the nurse at the GP practice and the one at the hospital were part of the system of NHS five yearly health checks for people aged 40 to 74. Surely one of the checks should be whether the person has any hearing issues or other communication problems? And surely they should at the very least provide posters for waiting rooms, so that people know what their rights are and are prompted to ask for the help they need?
This is where you can help. Have you been to the doctor, or an NHS England hospital since 31 July? If so, did they ask about any hearing problems (or indeed other communication problems) you might be having? Did you see any posters? Any examples of really good practice?? Or did nothing happen at all?
Remember, they are meant to ask EVERYONE, not just people they suspect have a problem. So – to the many readers of this blog with normal hearing – THIS APPLIES TO YOU TOO. It would be really helpful if you could let me know what (if anything) happened when you came into contact with the NHS since 31 July (leave a comment below). I’ll pass a copy of this post plus responses to Action on Hearing Loss. The more feedback the NHS receives the more likely it is that the legislation will be properly implemented.