It would be nice if every time you wanted an interpreter your doctor’s practice simply booked one. Unfortunately, we know the reality is not like this. It is very difficult to get an interpreter at short notice. Getting one on the same day would be a miracle.
Some health trusts are beginning to make improvements. They now employ their own interpreters who are available for all patients within the local area. This is a huge step forward, but is only happening in a few places.
In the past, doctors and patients have had to use a family member to act as an ‘interpreter’, or to pass bits of paper across the desk, or rely on the Deaf patient’s lipreading skills and voice. We all know of cases where this has led to a breakdown in communication, often with awful consequences. Or cases where a child has had to tell their parent about a bad diagnosis.
Fortunately, there is now a solution. SignHealth is a website that doctors and patients can use to aid communication. The doctor (or other health professional) chooses a question from a list on the screen. When they click on the question, the screen shows a short film of someone signing that question. The patient can watch the film and then answer the doctor. Most questions have simple yes/no answers, but others use pictures on the screen that the patient can point to.
SignHealth is clearly no replacement for an interpreter. But, when no interpreter can be booked, it gives patients and doctors a way to communicate.