Sign urges GP surgeries to adopt ‘deaf translator’

Mental health and deafness charity Sign is preparing to promote a diagnostic tool it hopes will revolutionise interaction between GPs and hearing-impaired patients.

The charity developed its SignHealth software after discovering there was no communication support for 60 per cent of GP appointments made by the hard of hearing.

Sign chief executive Steve Powell said the computer program translated questions into sign language. Doctors choose from a list of questions and then watch a video clip of the words being signed. The patient can then select an answer from a list.

'Deaf people are often misdiagnosed because there are only 68 sign interpreters available to GPs in the UK,' said Powell. 'Deaf people
also miss appointments because it is often impossible for them to phone up and rearrange appointments.'

Sign will target specialist GP and deafness media to ensure doctors and deaf patients make full use of the system while it is free.

The software also prints patient information, including simple advice on how to take medication.

Powell said he was keen to promote this aspect of the service to non-deaf people, and has appointed Storm Communications to run a media relations campaign. It will target healthcare professional press and titles aimed at older people.

The program can text reminders to patients and receive messages from them to alter appointments.

The Department of Health has agreed to fund every GP surgery in the UK to trial the system from February to May. Surgeries will then have to pay around £100 for the software.

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