We're marking Deaf Awareness Week (2-8 May) by reminding people of the support available across the Trust to ensure deaf people can understand, be understood and feel included when using our services.
This year’s theme is social inclusion and the impact this can have on mental health, with the UK Council of Deafness highlighting how deafness can lead to people feeling misunderstood, unseen, invisible and isolated.
In the Great Western Hospital and across our community and GP services, British Sign Language interpreters and other communications support is available, including telephone and face-to-face interpreting and transcription services.
Clear face masks are used in some teams to make it easier for patients who lip-read and use facial expressions to support communication.
The Trust works closely with Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA), a local charity which provides practical and emotional support to people who are deaf or hard of hearing across Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Swindon.
The Trust also has a Differently Abled Network, which aims to promote an inclusive culture for people with visible and hidden disabilities. Network members share personal experiences to influence policies and decisions that may impact on differently abled people.
Patients who have any form of disability are encouraged to complete a My Needs form so that the right support can be arranged for each patient in advance.
Salim Suleman, Head of Audiology at the Trust, said: “Two thirds of people aged over 70 have some form of hearing loss, so this is an issue for a large proportion of our patients.
“Alongside our work with Gloucestershire Deaf Association, we regularly talk to our deaf patients, visitors, and staff, to find out what more we can do to improve the experience of the deaf community.
“Visiting hospital can be an anxious time for anyone, but especially for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. I would encourage patients to contact the Patient, Advice and Liaison Service ahead of your visit so that we can arrange the right support.
“There are some really simple things we can all do to help deaf people to understand, be understood and feel included.
“This includes having an open and positive facial expression and making eye contact, speaking clearly and normally, and facing the person you’re speaking to so they can see your mouth.
“Using your hands to point at things you’re talking about is another great way to create more clarity. Writing things down on your phone or on paper is also a useful tool.
“The most important thing is not to give up and to keep trying.”
To book an interpreter or other communication support ahead of your visit, please contact the Patient, Advice and Liaison Service: www.gwh.nhs.uk/wards-and-services/patient-advice-and-liaison-service-pals/contact/