BSL Health Access delivers immediate, on demand non-emergency access to British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters for communication with Deaf people in health settings free of charge during the current Coronavirus situation.

Access to BSL interpreters will take place through two methods:

Video Relay Services (VRS)
when a BSL interpreter relays information over a telephone call between a BSL user and the hearing person receiving or making the call.

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)
this is where a remote interpreter is used to facilitate communication with a Deaf and hearing person in the same location.

The same App button is used for either VRS or VRI.

Simply put and in the main, Deaf BSL users will access both VRS & VRI through the BSL Health Access button on the InterpreterNow App.

Health care professionals will receive a VRS call on an ordinary phone or share the mobile device in a VRI setting.

Healthcare providers can provide mobile devices for patients – to provide this on these devices, you as a provider can download the app by registering here:
The mobile device must have access to the internet.

Please note: during the registration process and if your using your @nhs email address, the activation email/response may be blocked or have been directed to your spam/junk folder.

Providers can also provide laptops where the service ‘BSL Health Access’ can be accessed via a webpage:
The laptop must have access to the internet and have a camera and audio.

A Tech-Spec for network/firewalls can be found here:InterpreterNow Technical Specification no flash (PDF)

As a health care provider you can contact a Deaf BSL user by calling 03333 444 921 and asking for the person by name. This is ONLY available if the user has registered, downloaded that App and is available to take a call.

FAQs relevant to Health Service Professionals

1. Who can use the service?
Anyone who needs to communicate using British Sign Language (BSL), in a health situation, can use the service. Deaf and hearing people can both use the service.
2. When is the service available?
The service commences at 9am on Thursday 16 April 2020 and will operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week until further notice.
4. I’m hearing - can I use the service to make a phone call to a Deaf person?
Yes, if you are a hearing person and need help to communicate in a ‘Health care’ scenario in sign language you can call 03333 444 921 and the online interpreter will communicate to the Deaf person for you. All you need is a phone. You don’t need to install any software, just ring the above number.
11. My local health service already has a BSL service similar to this, should I keep using that?
Yes. If you already have BSL access to your GP or hospital please keep using that service but if you don’t have that, or if you’re not sure, please use this new service to contact the health service provider that you need.
12. Who is paying for this service? Do I have to pay to use it?
No – you don’t have to pay to use the service – it is free at the point of use by Deaf people or anyone wanting to communicate in sign language in a health service situation.
We hope that the government will fund this service in the future but, in the meantime, the Deaf health charity, SignHealth is paying for it.
13. When in hospital, can firewalls block the connection?
Yes, if you are using the hospital WiFi on your phone or tablet, the firewall may block the video. It would be best to use your own signal (4G) if at all possible.

If you are a health care service provider, please refer to our Tech-Spec that shows configuration for the ports/firewall.

14. Are the interpreters fully registered and qualified?
Yes, all the interpreters are fully registered and qualified with either NRCPD or SASLI/ SRLPDC. They have many years experience of working online. All calls are fully confidential, and we do not record calls.
16. Is the BSL Health Access service available in Scotland?
The service is available in public healthcare situations where BSL support is not currently
provided (chemist, GP, dentist etc).
In Scotland, the Scottish Government funds a national video relay service which is called
The contactSCOTLAND-BSL service operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be used
to call absolutely any service, organisation or person.
Therefore BSL Health Access would only be used in Scotland for public healthcare situations
where there is no face to face interpreter available.
17. What services are included?
All NHS related services are covered. Including and not limited to: GPs, health clinics, pharmacies/chemists, optometry, dentistry, orthopedics, etc.
18. What about social care?
No, only NHS funded services are supported through this BSL service.
21. Is this service confidential?
All of our interpreters are qualified and registered meaning they follow a Code of Practice that includes keeping confidentiality unless there is a legal requirement to share information. We do not record your calls.
22. I am a hearing professional and need to use this service to communicate with a Deaf patient in hospital, what do I need to know?
This service will allow you to communicate with a Deaf patient using their own device or one provided by you or the hospital. The device needs to be placed somewhere that the Deaf person can easily see the interpreter on the screen and you can hear the interpreter and be heard by them. A private space/room is preferable to maintain patient confidentiality. Please be aware that, if you need to examine the patient, it is best to explain what you are going to do before proceeding with the examination rather than explaining while you are examining the patient. Be mindful that the interpreter will interpret everything that they hear to the Deaf patient. There may be times that the interpreter has to ask you to repeat information if they have not heard you or require clarification.
23. Are there appointments that are not suitable for this service?
There are some appointments where it may be better to book a face to face interpreter, for example giving a terminal diagnosis or sharing potentially distressing and/or sensitive information. We appreciate that this may not be possible at the current time and our interpreters will work as hard and as sensitively as possible with you to ensure that such information is conveyed in the most appropriate manner possible.

Tech-Spec (Ports/Firewall) for IT Managers

To assist with any technical issues with configuring network firewalls – please see our useful Tec-SpecInterpreterNow TechSpec (PDF)