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GP sign service for deaf patients

A charity that aims to drive up standards of healthcare for deaf people has urged GPs to access an online interpreter.

SignHealth has developed the SignTranslate service, which is accessed via a live webcam link to qualified British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters.

Deaf people are less satisfied with the healthcare they receive than hearing people, according to the findings of the GP Patient Survey 2011.

Steve Powell, Chief Executive of SignHealth, said: "We developed SignTranslate to give online access to fully qualified interpreters at short notice. It provides instant help for healthcare staff who want to communicate with a deaf person.

"Using a webcam the patient and interpreter can see each other and sign the conversation with the doctor or medical professional."

The findings from the 2011 survey confirm the results from the 2008, 2009 and 2010 surveys and show no improvement in deaf people's well-being or their experience with their GP.

Mr Powell added: "If SignTranslate is available in every surgery, deaf people will be able to communicate more effectively with their GP, have a better understanding of their condition and therefore receive better healthcare.

"No specialist equipment is needed to use SignTranslate. All that is required is a webcam with a PC or laptop, and an interpreter can be available within minutes, making it much easier than using face-to-face interpreters, who often have to be booked a long time before an appointment.

"It also means there are no delays and no travel expenses. SignTranslate is free to sign language users and is very competitively priced for service providers."

There are no set up fees or monthly charges, health professionals will only pay for the time used.

Copyright © Press Association 2011