New network to support deaf and hard of hearing healthcare staff

For Deaf Awareness Week, neurology consultant Helen Grote discusses the importance of the new National Deaf and Hard of Hearing network for NHS staff

Location: England
Published: Wednesday 8 May 2024
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One in seven individuals in the UK have some level of hearing loss, and there are many Deaf and hard of hearing staff working at all levels across the NHS. Despite this, many do not always get the support they need. This year, NHS England launched a new network for Deaf and hard of hearing staff to provide peer support, share experiences and raise awareness about issues affecting Deaf and hard of hearing professionals.   

‘During the pandemic we saw a range of issues – from the widespread introduction of face masks, which created additional communication barriers between hearing and Deaf/hard of hearing staff, and a lack of appropriate adjustments, which led to many Deaf or hard of hearing staff being placed on long-term leave, with some even leaving the profession entirely as a result.  

‘We wanted to create a space where Deaf and hard of hearing staff could share their experiences, to make sure that these highly skilled and trained staff have their needs met.’  

Dr Grote is keen to encourage doctors and medical students, and allies, to engage with the new network and share their insight. ‘We know that general disability networks do not always meet the needs of Deaf and hard of hearing staff, with Deaf and hard of hearing people not necessarily identifying as disabled, and with networks not always being accessible to them.

‘Sharing experiences of common issues we face, such as listening fatigue, and exclusion from conversations which leads to a sense of isolation, is really important in terms of improving awareness with all of our colleagues.’ 

Over 100 staff from across the NHS joined the first virtual network meeting, and their insights have given some important areas of initial focus, including the need for wider Deaf insight training and access to appropriate equipment. The network has a number of meetings planned in the next few months and is encouraging more doctors and medical students to participate. You can sign up to the network via [email protected]. 

The BMA continues to look at ways in which we can provide better support to our Deaf and hard of hearing members. If you would like to support this work, please get in touch with the Equality, Inclusion and Culture team.