February 2010: The Hertfordshire Hearing Advisory Service (HHAS) has launched a free kit to make hospital visits less stressful for people suffering from hearing loss.
This kit, which is based on the work of an Australian hearing charity, is thought to be the first tailor-made kit for UK hospital patients with hearing loss.
The "Hospital Kit" includes various signs and badges for patients to put on their gown and around their hospital bed to make staff aware of their hearing loss, as well as advice for hearing aid users about their hospital visit. The kit will be available across Hertfordshire in GP surgeries and Audiology departments within hospitals.
"Going to hospital is stressful enough, but having a hearing loss makes it even harder. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can struggle to communicate with hospital staff, which is not just isolating and stressful, but can result in misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment," said Philip Linnegar, Chief Executive Officer of hearing loss charity HHAS. "This kit is a simple and cost-effective way of improving communication between health staff and patients."
The communication problems faced by hard of hearing people when accessing NHS services has been raised in various reports. A RNID survey published in 2004, A Simple Cure, found that 42% of deaf and hard of hearing people found it difficult to communicate with NHS staff during non-emergency visits. Similarly, a 2005 NHS report, Mental Health and Deafness, recommended that primary care and hospital trusts provide deaf awareness training to all front line staff to improve communication.
Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead and Shadow Minister for Health, welcomed the launch of the Hospital Kit. Mike is also a patron of the charity.
"It is vital, in a hospital environment, that a patient fully understands what is happening to them and what is being explained to them. This simple kit is an innovative solution that will help make medical staff aware of the particular needs of deaf and hard of hearing patients. I fully endorse this excellent project and congratulate the Hertfordshire Hearing Advisory Service on bringing it to fruition," said Penning.
Over the coming weeks, the Hospital Kit will be sent out to GP surgeries and health centres across Hertfordshire. The charity is asking GPs to give the kit to any hard-of-hearing patient they are referring to hospital.
Sandra Gower, a Trustee of the National Association for Patient Participation and the Managing Partner of Bennetts End Surgery, which is based in Hemel Hempstead, said the pack will have a big impact on people with hearing loss.
"The pack is a small thing that will make a big difference. It will help tackle fear among people with hearing loss and will improve understanding between hard-of-hearing patients and hospital staff. I'm delighted to have this pack available for patients at our surgery," said Sandra.
Hertfordshire Hearing Advisory Service has initially produced 100 Hospital Kits using a donation from Lloyds of London. The charity is now seeking funding to produce additional kits. If it is unable to obtain additional funding, it may ask hard-of-hearing people to make a small contribution towards costs in the future.
In addition to producing the Hospital Kit, HHAS is starting a programme of deaf awareness training for NHS staff this week3. The first NHS staff to receive training will be GPs and health centre staff in West Hertfordshire.
For more information on HHAS, or to obtain a Hospital Kit, contact the HHAS office on 01707 324 582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.