Deaf patients are now able to enjoy better access to GP services thanks to a new partnership between SignHealth – the healthcare charity for deaf people – and EMIS, the UK’s leading provider of GP systems.

The charity’s web-based SignTranslate communication program for deaf people is being made available free of charge to all GP practices in England until 31st July 2009 — supported by one year of funding from SignHealth.

For the 5,000 plus surgeries that use the EMIS clinical system, access to SignTranslate will be instant via an embedded link from the EMIS desktop. Non-EMIS practices can access the service by logging on to the SignTranslate website. The program translates more than 300 medical questions into British Sign Language (BSL) using short video clips, offering a quick and easy way to improve communication during a GP consultation. In addition to the translation of the pre-defined questions, the SignTranslate program also enables online access to "live" fully qualified BSL interpreters for a small fee. Via a webcam, a deaf patient can enjoy a fully interactive discussion with their doctor through the interpreter.*

Steve Powell, Chief Executive of SignHealth, said: "With only about 400 fully qualified interpreters in England to support approximately 70,000 deaf people who use BSL as their first language, it can be a real challenge arranging a supported doctor’s appointment. By funding SignTranslate to be free for every GP in England, we hope that every deaf person will be able to see their doctor when necessary."

As well as BSL, SignTranslate gives spoken and written translations into 12 foreign languages. It is the only internet-based translation tool of its kind in the UK.

SOURCE: Medical News Today