North East Ambulance Service launches new system to help paramedics care for deaf patients

North East Ambulance Service launches new BSL Relay Service to help ambulance crews care for deaf users
-Credit: (Image: Chronicle Live)

The North East Ambulance Service has launched a new British Sign Language Relay system to help ambulance crews care for deaf patients.

All ambulances have access to an iPad which will allow staff to access the video relay service.

Ambulance crews will be able to use the app in order to talk to patients through a video interpreter, helping them assess the patient’s condition and understand the next steps of their treatment. It is estimated that there are around 151,000 people in the UK who use British Sign Language (BSL), and of these, 87,000 are deaf.

This on-demand service allows the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) to improve communication and response in emergency situations involving BSL users. This includes asking lifesaving questions in emergency situations, as well as being used with community engagement teams who provide advice and training.

Mark Johns, engagement, diversity and inclusion manager at NEAS, said: "As an emergency service, we are committed to delivering high quality patient care and making sure all patients receive prompt and effective communication during emergency situations.

"Although our health advisors have access to BSL relay to support patients over the phone, we know our crews and Deaf/BSL patients sometimes face communication barriers. This partnership with SignVideo means that when a patient who is Deaf or uses BSL, we are able to triage and communicate more easily."

Rachel Austin, coordinator from Hartlepool Deaf Centre said: "Deaf BSL users struggle to access the ambulance service and many other services because of the communication barriers and the lack of support and assistance that is available.

"It’s great to see this new service being introduced by NEAS as it will hopefully remove a barrier that people experience and provide a useful tool to support Deaf BSL users and paramedics to communicate with each other in challenging and difficult circumstances. It will help to save more lives, ensure people get the best outcome and help achieve equality between Deaf and hearing people."

Training for frontline staff will take place over the next 12 months and be complete by spring 2025.