Focus on access to BSL in responses to NHS consultation

24 March 2015

NRCPD is pleased to note responses to the NHS England consultation on a draft accessible information standard had a particular focus on BSL.

The consultation report shows wide agreement on the need for the standard and support for its aims and vision. The responses and feedback will inform the final version of the standard, which is due to be published in June 2015.

The main theme of 'free text' comments on quality were about the need for qualified sign language interpreters. Some suggested interpreters should be registered with NRCPD.

Responses also suggested

  • clarity was needed about the support which would be provided as part of an inpatient stay, for example from a BSL or deafblind manual interpreter;
  • the standard should include remote interpreting services for BSL;
  • sign language interpreters should have experience or expertise in the relevant setting; and
  • health and social care staff should not be used as sign language interpreters.

The only area of potential concern is the use of family members or friends as interpreters. Some participants believed the standard should make clear they should not be used. Others felt it should make allowance for or encourage their involvement in supporting communication where appropriate.

NRCPD believes only qualified and registered communication and language professionals should be used by public services. Registration protects the public by making sure professionals meet occupational standards and abide by a Code of Conduct. It also provides on independent and objective complaints process.

We understand family and friends can be helpful in facilitating communication between a deaf person and health and social care professionals. However, only qualified communication and language professionals are able to interpret detailed and complex information.

There have been several high profile instances of people having to tell a family member or friend they were seriously ill or going to die. The emotional nature of such situation means they should never arise, both to protect al those involved and make sure mistakes aren't made as a result.

We will therefore be working with NHS England to make sure the standard is fit for purpose in providing access and protecting the public.

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