Making health information accessible to deaf children and young people

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Earlier this year, the My life, my health campaign, set up by the amazing National Deaf Children’s Society Young Person’s Advisory Board, published a report setting out the views of deaf young people on what needed to change to ensure they could access health services.

One of the key themes that came out of their consultations was the need for more accessible information. They uncovered stories of how young people were left in the dark over their health because the information given to them was complex and full of jargon and because the health professionals helping them weren’t deaf aware. We also heard of challenges in making sure that communication support was booked in when needed.

The great news is that it looks like these concerns are being heard. NHS England are currently consulting on proposals to make sure that all health providers ensure information is accessible to those with communication needs. Their proposals include:

  • Requiring health providers to record if a person has a communication need.
  • Ensuring communication support is in place and never assuming that family members will provide communication support.
  • Requiring health providers to produce an ‘accessible information policy’ so that local patients can more easily hold them to account.

None of the above is rocket science. But the consultation is positive in that it thinks about how NHS systems can be changed to make this a practical reality rather than just a wooly aspiration.

So far, so good. But at the National Deaf Children’s Society we think there is still room to go further. Whilst the proposals are great, there is still no specific recognition that the needs of young people may be different from those of adults. In particular, we want to see a more explicit requirement that information for young people needs to be engaging to young people: it needs to be free from jargon, visual and broken up into manageable chunks. We also want health professionals to be clear that they need to talk to young people directly, to check their understanding of what’s being said and that they may need to receive training to support this.

If you want to push the NHS England a little bit more and support the Young People’s Advisory Board campaign, the NHS England consultation runs until the 9th November. You can also help make change happen on the ground by sharing some of the great resources produced for the My life, my health campaign by the Young People’s Advisory Board with local GPs and other health professionals in your area.

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