Deaf teenagers are not getting the support they need from their GPs, according to a new campaign launched today [Tuesday 4 February] by the National Deaf Children’s Society.
My life, My health has been developed by the National Deaf Children’s Society and its Young People’s Advisory Board – a group of 17 deaf young people from around the UK – and calls on GPs and surgeries to be more deaf aware and ensure deaf teenagers get the health support they need.
Supported by the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health, it is the first health campaign of its kind led by deaf young people. More than 200 deaf children and young people from across the UK were consulted to find out about their experiences of using health services, including visiting their GP. The findings, published in a new report, suggest there is currently a worrying lack of deaf awareness in GP surgeries.
Many health care professionals do not know how to communicate with a deaf child or young person. Surgeries do not always provide deaf friendly services, such as the option to book appointments by text message or visual display screens to announce appointments. It is vital all staff communicate clearly and that sign language interpreters are available to those who need them.
Findings also suggest deaf teenagers risk missing their appointments if they do not hear their name being called, or could fail to understand what is happening during their appointment. Other deaf teenagers lack confidence in managing their own health care appointments.
Lucy Read, Head of Children and Young People’s Participation at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “Young people have the right to high quality, accessible health care services. However, this is not always their experience and certainly not for those from vulnerable groups, such as deaf teenagers. There are 45,000 deaf children and young people in the UK and it is vital they receive the right health support from an early age, as this also ensures they can go on to become independent adults.”
Dr Hilary Cass, President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: “As child health professionals, we have to get better at communicating with deaf teenagers. Simple steps such as making information more accessible can make a real difference to the lives of these young people.
“It’s shocking that too many deaf young people are at risk of poorer health outcomes as adults simply because they are deaf. There is no reason why, with the right support, deaf teenagers can’t be as healthy, informed and independent as other young people. This campaign and its recommendations provide a timely reminder that there is still a way to go to ensure that deaf children and young people have more voice, choice and control over their health care.”
Adam Churchman, 16 from Durham is profoundly deaf and a member of the Young People’s Advisory Board, he said: “Being a teenager is difficult enough but for many deaf teenagers like me, it can be even more challenging if we can’t access services that other young people often take for granted, like booking a GP appointment over the phone. My mum books and attends my GP appointments with me, but in the future I want to book my own, especially if it is something I don’t want to share with my mum.”
The My life, My health campaign highlights three key areas that need to be addressed: better deaf awareness; improved access to information and ensuring the right communication support is in place; supporting deaf teenagers to become more independent in managing their own health care.
The National Deaf Children’s Society and its Young People’s Advisory Board have created a range of resources for GPs, deaf teenagers and their parents, including top tips for GPs, and a wallet sized card that deaf teenagers can show their GP with details of their communication needs.
My life, My health launches on 4 February. More information, including a campaign video and resources, can be found at ndcs.org.uk/mylifemyhealth.
The National Deaf Children’s Society
The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) is the leading charity dedicated to creating a world without barriers for deaf children and their families. There are 45,000 deaf children in the UK. For more information visit www.ndcs.org.uk. For further support, parents can contact the NDCS Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 8880 (voice and text), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat online at www.ndcs.org.uk/livechat.