Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
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Equality & Human Rights Commission requires NHS Tayside to meet the communication needs of Deaf Patients.

The Equality & Human Rights Commission recently announced that it has signed a formal agreement with NHS Tayside to ensure that in future they will meet their duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure all deaf patients have their communication needs met when accessing NHS Tayside's services.

The agreement comes after Sally Doering, a deaf woman, spent six days in Perth Royal Infirmary in 2013, without any access to a sign language interpreter despite repeated requests for one to be provided.

Speaking recently Alastair Pringle, Director of the EHRC in Scotland said:

We are pleased that we have been able to conclude this case amicably and that NHS Tayside has agreed to change its practice and meet its legal duties going forward. This agreement is important because this is not the first time that NHS Tayside has failed to put reasonable adjustments in place to ensure deaf people have access to the support they require. In 2012 Ms Doering herself received an apology for a similar failure to provide a British sign language interpreter  to her during an eight day hospital stay, and another deaf woman successfully complained to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman about the hospital’s failure to provide a British signer language interpreter in 2013. We hope that this agreement, which includes NHS Tayside setting out a number of actions they will take to improve their performance, will now resolve the issue.

It’s imperative that deaf patients get access to communication support when attending clinics or during hospital stays. Without such communication support deaf patients are unable to communicate with doctors, to understand or consent to treatment, or to have the same degree of confidentiality that others routinely expect.

Speaking recently Ms Doering said:

I was taken into hospital suddenly and when I got there all my family and my advocacy worker asked for an interpreter to be provided so I could understand what was happening to me. Even though they asked, no interpreter was provided, this meant that I did not know what was happening to me. I couldn’t communicate with staff, I couldn’t let anyone know when I was in pain. I couldn’t even make choices of what food I wanted.  I didn’t find out what had been wrong with me until I got home and someone was able to explain to me.

The Section 23 agreement, which will run for the next two years, contains an action plan which will ensure NHS Tayside assess and meet the communication needs of patients. The agreement was reached after the Commission started court action in Ms Doerings name. The settlement also includes a compensation payment for Ms Doering.

For further information please contact the Commission’s media office on 0141 228 5971.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) promotes and enforces the laws that protect our rights to fairness, dignity and respect.  We are the National Equality Body (NEB) for Scotland, England and Wales, working across the nine protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010:  age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. 

Section 23 of the Equality Act 2006 empowers the EHRC to enter into an agreement with a body not to use its enforcement powers, provided that the body undertakes not to commit an unlawful act and to take (or stop taking) specific actions. It often includes an action plan which the Commission requires the organisation to report progress on regularly. If however there is a failure to comply with an undertaking in the agreement or the Commission thinks that compliance is unlikely, the Commission can take further action through the courts.

Ms Doering received an apology from NHS Tayside in 2012 for the non-provision of an interpreter during an 8 day stay. NHS Tayside were also criticised by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman in 2013 for failing to provide a sign language interpreter to another patient during a 12 day stay. 

Ms Doering was admitted to Perth Royal Infirmary as an emergency case on 12 September 2013. The Commission commenced legal proceedings against NHS Tayside in March 2014 but the case was subsequently settled. 


Channel website: https://www.icaew.com

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