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Debate on access to NHS services for British Sign Language users

Published Monday, May 13, 2019

On 15 May 2019 there will be a Westminster Hall debate on access to NHS services for British Sign Language users.

This House of Commons Library debate pack briefing has been prepared in advance of a 90 minute Westminster Hall debate on access to NHS services for British Sign Language users. The debate will be led by Catherine McKinnell MP and will take place at 2.30pm on Wednesday 15 May 2019.

Public authorities, including the NHS, have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make “reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of disabled people who use their services”, including those with hearing loss.  A Library briefing, The Public Sector Equality Duty and Equality Impact Assessments, provides further background on the Public Sector Equality Duty, under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010

From 1 August 2016 onwards, all organisations that provide NHS care and/or publicly-funded adult social care are legally required to follow the Accessible Information Standard, with guidance on this published by NHS England.  It sets out requirements that include arranging for support to be provided by communication professionals, including British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, where this is needed to support effective communication. The Standard also provides direction around appropriate qualification and professional registration status of communication professionals, including BSL interpreters, as well as providing other guidance in this regard. However, the Standard does not direct how such support should be arranged or funded, which is a matter for local decision by NHS bodies and service providers.

There have been a number of PQs about the use of BSL within the NHS, see the following responses for some further background:

Asked by: Pollard, Luke | Party: Labour Party · Cooperative Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to ensure hospital staff can support British sign language interpreters to assist deaf patients.

Answering member: Caroline Dinenage | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department of Health and Social Care

Compliance with the Accessible Information Standard is a legal duty: organisations that provide National Health Service care or adult social care have been required to meet the Standard since August 2016. Compliance with the Standard is also a requirement of the NHS Standard Contract 2018/19.

Commissioners must actively support compliance by organisations from which they commission services and they must also seek assurance from providers with regard to compliance.

The Care Quality Commission, when inspecting providers, also looks at how services implement the Accessible Information Standard.

22 Oct 2018 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 178534

Asked by: Salmond, Alex | Party: Scottish National Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, whether the NHS has a standard procedure for booking British sign language interpreters; whether that guidance is publicised to NHS staff; and whether such staff can use it confidentially.

Answering member: David Mowat | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department of Health

Information is not collected centrally on the number of fulfilled requests by patients for a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter; the number of appointments postponed where a BSL interpreter was not provided, or on the number of staff providing social care who have received bespoke BSL and deaf awareness training.

The Accessible Information Standard, which was formerly known as SCCI1605 Accessible Information, was published by NHS England in July 2015. It sets out a series of requirements that organisations that provide National Health Service care or publicly funded social care in England must follow. These include arranging for support to be provided by communication professionals, including BSL interpreters, where this is needed to support effective communication. The Standard also provides direction around appropriate qualification and professional registration status of communication professionals, including BSL interpreters, as well as providing other guidance in this regard. However, the Standard does not direct how such support should be arranged or funded, as this is a matter for local decision.

Compliance with the Standard is a legal duty and all organisations that provide NHS care, including general practice, or adult social care were required to implement the Standard in full by 31 July 2016, and then ensure ongoing compliance thereafter.

15 Feb 2017 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 63509

Asked by: Howlett, Ben | Party: Conservative Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what his policy is on future funding for supporting adult sign readers; and if he will make a statement.

Answering member: Alistair Burt | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department of Health

It is the responsibility of local providers and commissioners to make the reasonable adjustments required by the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that disabled people are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.

Arrangements for the provision of sign language interpretation and translation services by National Health Service bodies and NHS service providers are a matter for local determination.

In order to reduce unacceptable variation in the provision of accessible information and communication support to disabled people, including adult sign readers, NHS England published an accessible information standard, SCCI1605, on 3 July. The standard sets out that all organisations providing NHS or adult social care must take steps to ensure that people receive information that they can access and understand, and receive communication support if they need it. Organisations must comply in full with the standard by 31 July 2016.

14 Jul 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 5859

The Library produced a debate pack briefing for a general debate on deafness and hearing loss in November 2017.

Commons Debate packs CDP-2019-0118

Author: Tom Powell

Topics: Health services, Patient rights and complaints

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