Intended for healthcare professionals


Covid-19: D/deaf healthcare workers faced “widespread, systemic discrimination” during pandemic, study finds

BMJ 2021; 373 doi: (Published 26 May 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1365

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Covid-19: The communication needs of D/deaf healthcare workers and patients are being forgotten

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  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

Deaf healthcare workers have faced “widespread, systemic discrimination” during clinical practice and through pandemic policies, researchers have found.1

The situation left one GP partner, who is profoundly deaf, “demoralised and depressed” and on the brink of quitting the profession. It was not helped by delays in the UK’s acquisition of clear face masks, which then failed infection control tests.

The term “D/deaf” includes people who are “Deaf,” which typically refers to those who use British Sign Language as their first language, and people who are “deaf”—those who have hearing impairment but use spoken English and lipreading. People in either group may wear cochlear implants or hearing aids to help them hear environmental sounds and speech.

A research team from three NHS trusts in England surveyed D/deaf healthcare professionals in the UK to determine their communication challenges during the pandemic and to highlight areas where more support was needed. There are no accurate data on the number of D/deaf healthcare workers, but the researchers estimated this as “potentially several thousand” on the basis of the 2.8 million employed UK adults of working age who have hearing loss, 6% of whom work in healthcare.

The survey was distributed to the 194 members of the UK Deaf …

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