An innovative online pilot scheme to improve the health of deaf people is being launched by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC). Around thirty video clips have now gone live on the health board's website, using British Sign Language (BSL) to give health information to deaf and hard of hearing people.
The short video clips feature deaf presenters offering information on topics ranging from how to find a GP through recruitment to how to make a complaint. Using the online video technology will make it easier for the approximately 1000 deaf and hearing-impaired people living within Greater Glasgow and Clyde who rely on BSL to access information and support. In total, there are an estimated 163,100 people living in the area who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Establishing a pilot BSL micro-site reflects NHSGGC's commitment to providing equal access to healthcare for all people with disabilities, as well as the health board's desire to communicate as clearly as possible with all service users. This also includes running specialist courses in Communication Tactics, allowing around 300 staff so far to undergo training in how to communicate better with deaf and hard of hearing patients.
Jac Ross, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's Corporate Inequalities Manager for Disability, explains how important it is to provide information in a way the deaf community can understand: "For deaf people who communicate by signing, English simply isn't their first language - BSL is. It can be harder to find information when it's written in English, and harder to seek help, so it's particularly important to make health information available in BSL. Expecting a deaf person to deal solely in written English is putting unnecessary barriers in the way.
"Evidence shows that ultimately this has a negative impact on the health of deaf people. They tend to have more health problems and don't go for help as promptly as hearing people.
"Deaf people are also less likely to pick up on general health messages. For example, a hearing person might notice an advert talking about safe drinking levels, which a deaf person won't. You take for granted all sorts of health information, but for deaf people it's not that simple and this is our way of redressing the balance."
The scheme is supported by Deaf Connections, Scotland's oldest charity for deaf people. Experts from the Glasgow-based organisation translated the written health information into BSL and have now been filmed delivering the information on the 30 video clips. Chief Executive Gordon Chapman said: "There is considerable evidence to show that deaf people do not have access to important information that can help them make decisions which affect their health. As a result, many deaf people suffer poor health.
"By giving health information in the language that they understand, we will go a long way towards empowering deaf people and helping them to make decisions which will have a direct impact on the quality of their lives."
Catriona Lafferty is a Health Promotion Worker with Deaf Connections. She said: "As a deaf person, I find it very difficult to access any information on the Internet because it is written in English. This is not my first language and I would prefer to have information presented in British Sign Language.
"Accessing information in BSL would give me greater confidence and I think it is great that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are making the effort to make their website accessible for me and for other deaf people. I am sure that once deaf people are aware that this facility is available, then they will start to use it on a regular basis."
Jac Ross says the scheme will be thoroughly evaluated to make sure it provides the best service for the deaf community: "By making these initial 30 clips available online, we hope that deaf people will find it easier to get any help and information they need from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. We will be closely monitoring the pilot scheme and how it's being used. In time, we hope that our BSL micro-site will become the first place deaf people turn to for health information in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and that it helps to improve their health."
For more information contact NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Communications on 0141 201 4429.