Bedfordshire's deaf community say health services deteriorated during the pandemic

Report calls for more action to help provide access to services

By Lynn Hughes
Friday, 11th February 2022, 12:10 am
Updated Friday, 11th February 2022, 12:12 am

The deaf community in Bedfordshire feel health services declined during the pandemic.

In a recent focus group, organised by Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire and Healthwatch Bedford Borough, members of the deaf community felt that professionals do not understand the their concerns and needs and the detrimental effect this has on their health and wellbeing.

A report now issued says there is general anxiety among the deaf community about how to access services - who will accompany them to an appointment, whether they will have access to a qualified interpreter, and who will be paying for the Interpreter.

The Seen and Heard report

The community feel that health and care services have ‘gone back in time’ and with all the technology currently available to support marginalised people there should not be such difficulty when communicating with health and social care professionals.

The report, Seen And Heard, states: "From feedback received from all participants of the focus group, the deaf community clearly felt that prior to the pandemic in March 2020, services were slowly starting to improve, however during the pandemic, all participants felt that access to services had severely deteriorated.

"When asked how frequently they had used health and care services during the pandemic, one person said they had used them ‘more’, four people said ‘less’ and five people said ‘the same’.

"However, when asked about using these services in the future, participants very clearly said that they would only use services, and have more confidence in all services, if they improved, if Interpreters were provided, and if deaf awareness for professionals was increased. They felt that professionals do not understand the concerns and needs of the deaf community and the detrimental effect that it has on them."

The deaf community in Bedfordshire is calling for health and care services to use tools like ‘SignLive’ more widely and frequently, if they are not able to facilitate a face to face consultation – the preferred option of the deaf community.

The report will be sent to the newly created BLMK Integrated Care System (ICS) to help inform future commissioning decisions. Follow-up in-depth interviews will also take place with some participants of the focus group.

A British Sign Language (BSL) translation of the report is currently in progress and will be available to download on both Healthwatch websites in due course.