Summary of the position on wider NHS accessibility
We welcome the Rapid Review for BSL interpreter Commissioning. It is a substantial report and if implemented will make a tremendous difference for BSL users. We appreciate that this report was produced with the cooperation of the BSL community, and we believe the recommendations will be a great help to the majority of BSL users. We are also consulting our BSL charities for any comments they may have.
While we welcome the Rapid Review for BSL users we are also concerned about the large number of people with a hearing loss who are not BSL users and are also experiencing similar accessibility problems communicating with medical professionals and admin. staff. We believe they too need to have their issues addressed and addressing their problems is likely to involve far less cost than implementing the Rapid Review recommendations even though the number of people affected is many times larger than the BSL community.
We have been pressing NHS England regarding the accessibility problems of the larger community of people who are deaf or have a significant hearing loss but are not BSL users since March.
We suggest extending best practice that is already available in some parts of the NHS will go some way to improving the situation. This was outlined to MPs at the All-Party Parliamentary Group in February. While there has been a little relaxation in the arrangements for GP appointments. The issues existed prior to the pandemic and still cause as many or more difficulties than prior to Covid.
None of the suggestions are rocket science or expensive to implement but history has shown that national solutions are best driven from the centre. The name “NHS Improvement Team for Primary Care Contracting” implies they control the contractual arrangements between the NHS and GP surgeries. They therefore would appear to be ideally placed to ensure that the NHS Accessibility Standard is complied with.
If somehow that is not the case, we have requested NHS England to explain how it is not the case and identify the department in NHS England which is in a better position to ensure compliance. We understand this could be in the process of being transferred to elsewhere in NHS, but we await a response from NHS England.
If it is somehow outside of NHS England authority and needs parliamentary action, we have asked to be advised so we can follow up as appropriate.