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The Sick Of It report is SignHealth’s ground-breaking report about the health of Deaf people in the UK.

It shows that Deaf people are suffering from preventable and potentially life-threatening illnesses due to access limitations, misdiagnosis, and poor treatment.

Published in 2014, the Sick Of It report was the first major review of the health impacts on Deaf people of accessibility and communication barriers. The report was made possible with funding from the Big Lottery Fund and research from the University of Bristol.

This ground-breaking research reveals a story of unintentional neglect, shortened lives and wasted money.

Health Findings

Research found that Deaf people are on average as active as hearing people, eat a similar amount of vegetables, but tend to drink less alcohol and smoke far fewer cigarettes.

So, why are Deaf people twice as likely to have high blood pressure? Or four times as likely to be at risk of diabetes? Why are so many unknowingly living with health issues which can lead to heart attacks, strokes and other serious conditions?

The answer is lack of information, poor communication, and unnecessary difficulties in getting to the doctor in the first place. All of that is outside the control of Deaf people themselves.

Modern healthcare places great importance on giving people information to allow them make healthy choices. However we found a shocking lack of even basic health information in British Sign Language (BSL).

45% of Deaf people still have to walk into their surgery to make an appointment. They don’t have another way to do it.

When sign language users finally get to see their doctor, they are forced to communicate in ways that cause misunderstandings, confusion, missed diagnosis and poor treatment. 8 in 10 Deaf people want to use sign language, 3 in 10 are given the chance.

Our health system is failing Deaf people.

“Misdiagnosis and poor treatments are costing the NHS £30m a year.”

Health economists at the University of East Anglia

Recommendations

The Sick of It Report makes several observations about the need to improve the standard of communication, the availability of information and the ability of Deaf people to access services. We have outlined, in our Prescriptions For Change, a list of simple, affordable solutions that healthcare professionals could implement, including:

  • Ask Deaf patients how they would like to communicate with you and record it on their notes so that next time they make an appointment you make the best arrangements possible.
  • Offer online booking for appointments and SMS or email contact.
  • Book double-length consultations to allow for the interpretation.
  • Make sure you set up a system for calling patients which doesn’t rely on them hearing you calling their name.
  • Set-up a simple system for booking interpreters and make sure all staff know how to do it.
  • Take a few minutes to set-up InterpreterNow for the times when you can’t get a face-to-face interpreter quickly enough.
  • NEVER ask a family member to interpret.
  • Remember that unless your Deaf patient requests it, written English is not a “reasonable adjustment” under the Equality Act.
  • Routinely make health information accessible to Deaf people.
  • Offer Deaf awareness training to all frontline staff.

What has happened since the Sick of It Report was published?

The report helped inform and shape policy decisions leading to the Accessible Information Standard. The Standard creates legally enforceable requirements to improve communication and accessibility for people with a disability or sensory loss. 

SignHealth worked closely with the team drawing up the standard and made arrangements for Deaf people to provide input directly.

Lord Howe has called the Sick Of It report “immensely powerful”. In the House of Lords he stated, “I would like to pay tribute to the exceptional work of SignHealth in promoting the same sort of access to healthcare and health information for Deaf people as hearing people receive”. The message of the research is getting through. Changes are being made to the way the health service provides information, and it’s also behind the introduction of online access to services using BSL.

It is clear that progress has been made since the publication of the Sick Of It Report. However issues remain, and we are continuing to work to remove barriers that impact the health and wellbeing of Deaf poeple in the UK.

Research underpins our work

The Sick Of It report helped guide and shape the services and activities we have undertaken in order to best meet the needs and challenges Deaf people face across the country.

It is time for change. We are working towards a future without barriers to good health and wellbeing.