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Study examines healthcare for deaf

Deaf people are being invited to take part in the first UK survey to identify their general state of health and their access to medical care.

SignHealth, the national society for mental health and deafness, has commissioned a study similar to research carried out in Austria, which found there are higher incidents of diabetes, asthma and hypertension among deaf people.

The charity hopes to discover whether people with hearing difficulties are prone to these conditions, or whether a lack of information about illnesses means they are not getting adequate treatment.

A report published by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People in 2004 found that 35% of deaf and hard-of-hearing people were unclear about their condition because of communication problems with their GP or nurse and 28% found it difficult to contact their local surgery.

And a third of British Sign Language users were found to be either unsure of how much medication to use, or had taken too much or too little because of communication difficulties.

Steve Powell, chief executive of SignHealth, said: "There are many sad and unnecessary stories of deaf people receiving poor or delayed treatment for illnesses such as cancer or heart disease - or simply not receiving or understanding information about conditions such as pregnancy, diabetes or HIV/Aids.

"This research will help identify the healthcare priorities for deaf people and pinpoint where action is needed most urgently."

Royal National Institute for Deaf People

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Do you think deaf people often recieve poor or delayed treatments? Please leave your comments, name and address in the feedback box below. Your personal details will not be published if you so request. (Terms and conditions apply)

"I am a mental health nurse with an interest in working with the deaf. In my experience deaf people who require specialist mental health services have to access them out of their local area. Those who do access local services are not receiving the same quality of care due to communication difficulties and lack of expert knowledge about mental health and deafness. This is not in keeping with government policy in respect of the 'Care Programme Approach' and 'National Service Framework' designed to offer 24-hour access to these specialist services as close to home as possible. Being deaf should not mean that people are given an unfair disadvantage, particularly in relation to their health" - Ben, Doncaster

"In South Gloucestershire, hospitals such as Frenchay and some GPs are very poor of providing the needs for myself and for other deaf people.  The communication barriers are our major problem‚ which hinder any access any information. Frenchay hospital uses their own interpreters  supplied through an agency. They are NOT qualified BSL interpreter and only have a level 3 certificate. They do not have the experience or have not been trained at university to become a qualified interpreters. In my experience I often come out with unclear information and experience stressful appointments. I was not clear what was happening with my health and regularly not satisfied with the information I was receiving from the agency interpreters. I am very tired of fighting with the hospital to provide me a qualified BSL interpreter and choose my preferred interpreter. This is my health and I want all the information about what is happening to my health. I am sure there are many more deaf people out there with experiences the same as me. I hope this survey will become successful and hopefully something about it" - Stewart Taylor, Bristol

"Yes deaf people do get poor treatment. Lack of information and difficult finding an interpreter match a deaf person's needs" - Clare, Bristol

"Yes, Bristol and South Gloucestershire hospitals refused to have sign language interpreters. They haven't consulted with us deaf people. It's really bad, we are aware that they are delaying things because of no sign language interpreters, so we have communication breakdown. It's really important to have sign language interpreters - the professional ones - not below level 3 as health issues are serious we need the professionals" - Alexy Dury, Bristol