Easier access to telephone GP appointments for d/Deaf people

From this week, d/Deaf people across East Sussex are set to benefit from a new Video Relay Service (VRS), which has gone live in all GP practices and offers telephone consultations to British Sign Language (BSL) users.

The new, improved service will see GP practices being able to offer the consultations with support from Signlive, a free to download App that connects the caller to a fully qualified interpreter before connecting to the recipient.

It will mean d/Deaf patients across East Sussex will now be able to call their registered practice for free, using the standard telephone number, speak with receptionists and book a telephone appointment with a GP, just as a hearing person can. 

The service has been rolled out at speed in response to Covid-19 and the changes in how GP practices are offering healthcare during the pandemic.

Dr Tim Caroe – Joint Chief Medical Officer for the Sussex NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), and a GP in Eastbourne, said:

“We are working in unprecedented times to provide high quality care whilst ensuring patient and staff health and safety. To help support the national social distancing response, GP surgeries have moved to offer telephone and online access instead of people being able to visit the surgery to make an appointment. Whilst that has been welcomed by many, it has had the potential to create a barrier for people who are d/Deaf. East Sussex CCG has moved swiftly to provide an accessible solution to support these people who may have found this change difficult.

“We are pleased to announce that the new service, hosted by Signlive, will empower our d/Deaf community through improved access and experience. From now on d/Deaf patients will be able to book appointments and have access to telephone consultations without the need for support from friends or family through a service that provides signing and support. We are committed to ensuring that everyone continues to be able to access the healthcare that they need.”

Signlive is a free to download App, available on the Android play store and Apple store. To access the service, the user downloads the SignLive app, registers their details, and selects NHS East Sussex in the Community Directory. They then select their GP practice from the list and will be connected to an interpreter before the call is connected. Any call made from the community directory is free for d/Deaf people.