In March 2020, as lockdown came into effect and services across the country switched to phone consultations. Deaf people needed a solution fast to address this new barrier to healthcare in the UK. SignHealth, the Deaf health charity, launched a free on-demand 24/7 remote interpreting service called BSL Health Access, in partnership with InterpreterNow. This enabled Deaf people to access medical services over the phone, free of charge.
When BSL Health Access launched, SignHealth was optimistic that NHS England or another government body would pay for the service in order to make phone consultations accessible to Deaf people. In the meantime, SignHealth invested £800,000 from their own reserves to kickstart the service and ensure that Deaf people were not left waiting. In late 2020, the NHS agreed to cover the running costs from December to the end of March 2021 to ensure the service continued through the winter while the NHS reviewed British Sign Language (BSL) provision more broadly.
So far over 25,000 conversations have taken place through this service. After investing £800,000 from their reserves, SignHealth is no longer able to cover the costs of the service. The NHS has not committed any further funding for April 1st onwards, effectively closing the service of BSL Health Access.
For the press release, please visit: https://signhealth.org.uk/campaign/no-money-bsl-health-access-is-closing/