Deaf woman at hospital for days without interpreter

Ninewells Hospital. Picture: TSPL
Ninewells Hospital. Picture: TSPL
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A DEAF woman spent almost three days in a Scottish hospital without being provided with a sign language interpreter.

A report from the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman found that the woman, referred to only as “Miss A”, was “left in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, without an interpreter for nearly three days”.

The damning review notes that Miss A suffers from profound deafness, meaning she has no hearing ability at all and was unable to communicate with staff during her treatment.

It explained: “The board had initially tried to get an interpreter, but it was then left to Miss A’s family to do so. When they could not, the board arranged for an interpreter to attend. There were also problems in ensuring interpreters were there at the same time as doctors.”

The report upheld the complaint made on Miss A’s behalf, and said Tayside NHS Board had been made to apologise to her for the “unacceptable” mishap.

It went on: “The board agreed it is their responsibility, not that of the patient’s family, to try to secure an interpreter.”

The board has had to enter a “legal agreement” with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to ensure patients with additional communication requirements receive the same treatment as other patients.

Alastair Pringle, director of the EHRC in Scotland, said: “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.”

NHS Tayside has previously failed to provide interpreters for deaf patients. A deaf woman spent six days in Perth Royal Infirmary in 2013 without access to an interpreter despite repeated requests for one.

She said: “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 didn’t find out what had been wrong with me until I got home and someone was able to explain to me.”