Cambridgeshire Deaf Association launched their health campaign to improve access to health services for Deaf people in 2014. For the last eighteen months, we have been working with them and other local organisations to help improve access to health care for people with sensory and learning disabilities. Find out more here.
South Cambridgeshire resident Will lost too much weight and became unwell with untreated Crohn’s disease after struggling to communicate with health professionals. Will is Deaf and uses British Sign Language.
Will shared his story with us at our AGM last week to help us launch our 'It Starts With You' campaign. We are using Will's story to show health and care professionals how important it is for people to be given health information in a way they can understand.
Will has lived with Crohn's disease since he was a child, yet until October last year, had never been to a medical appointment with a British Sign Language Interpreter there. Like many Deaf people, Will struggles with written English, which has very different grammar to British Sign Language.
Will told us ‘You know, it is really hard. With the GP, I’ve been in an appointment, and they’ve written down the information and it’s just gone over my head a bit, but actually, English isn’t my first language. It’s actually been quite difficult.’
‘My stomach condition has got worse and worse, and then I finally contacted Cambridgeshire Deaf Association (CDA) for help, and they sorted it out for me.
Rachael, Will’s advocate from CDA, told us that ‘when Will contacted us he was explaining that he hadn’t ever gone to the doctors and got an interpreter and so he’d sort of given up. We contacted his doctors, and when he went for his appointment with the doctor after that, that was the first time he had had an interpreter.’
The doctor was quite shocked that he hadn’t received any treatment, no information over diet, food or what he should eat.'
Since then, Will has had an interpreter for most of his medical appointments. However, Will explained to us that booking these wasn’t always straightforward. Sometimes the hospital had tried to phone him to arrange appointments, instead of texting.
Will said, “I feel the NHS needs to improve with booking interpreters, because I been emailing them of when I need an interpreter and the date, and all the information, and then when I arrive, there isn’t an interpreter there.’
‘I felt really down, and it hasn’t done anything for my confidence. They’ve just been typing away on the computers, and I’ve just been sitting there waiting and haven’t really understood what’s going on.’
‘I’ve kept it inside, but it’s actually brought me quite down, and I just walked away again. And I know that lots of people have had the same experience as me when they have tried to book an interpreter through the NHS.’
It’s actually quite important for my health, if I am misdiagnosed and I will become more ill – it is actually a big worry for me.
It Starts With You
Everything we do starts with what local people tell us. Share your experiences and ideas to help services hear what works, what doesn’t and what you want from care in the future. No matter how big or small the issue, tell us about it. If it matters to you then it’s very likely it matters to someone else.
- Call 0330 355 1285
- Text 0752 0635 176