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Access to Basic Health Care a Struggle for Deaf Patients

Sign language and sensory awareness training can be part of medical teaching curriculum

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Profoundly deaf and hearing-impaired patients often struggle to make themselves understood in medical consultations, which restricts their access to basic medical services, according to an article published online Sept. 30 in BMJ.

Michael Paddock, of King's College London School of Medicine in the United Kingdom, and colleagues write that there are approximately 60,000 deaf people in the United Kingdom whose preferred means of communication is British Sign Language, but 70 percent of deaf users of health care services do not have access to interpreters during consultations, and 28 percent report avoiding primary care physician visits due to poor communication.

A program of sensory awareness development and training has been introduced at King's College London, the authors report. The program includes sessions run by visually impaired and deaf trainers, as well as the opportunity for medical students to learn British Sign Language to help equip them with basic skills to explore a deaf patient's health problem.

"We hope that the initiative spearheaded by King's College London will prompt other medical schools to follow suit," the authors write. "Access of deaf people to health care provision is restricted on a daily basis through a lack of appropriate awareness and skills among health care professionals. Basic instruction in deaf awareness and appropriate communication tactics with deaf people are imperative for the medical students of today."

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