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Home > Your Health > Equalities in Health > Areas of Work > British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan

British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan

The Scottish Government has produced a British Sign Language National Plan 2017-23, as required by the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015. It sets out Scotland’s ambition to be the best place in the world for BSL users to live, work and visit. Other public bodies, including NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHSGGC), have now published their own, local BSL plans. 

In putting together our local plan, we consulted with our Deaf BSL patients to gather opinions and ideas. This included patient group involvement, BSL local events, Facebook feedback and an event for Deafblind people.

NHSGGC is already involved a range of activities to help raise awareness amongst patients and staff about BSL as a language and culture and to make sure our patients have access to BSL interpreting whenever they need it.

BSL Interpreting Service

It is the responsibility of NHSGGC staff to book an interpreter for patients attending any of our healthcare services.

BSL Online Interpreting

BSL Online interpreting means that Deaf patients are able to communicate with staff while waiting for a face to face interpreter to arrive. The online service means that staff can quickly link up to an interpreter at any time, 24/7, and communicate with their patient. It’s particularly useful for emergency and unplanned visits and can be used for hospital stays when an interpreter is not always present.

An innovative new service for Deaf patients has been introduced across NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

British Sign Language (BSL) Online interpreting means that Deaf patients are able to communicate with staff while waiting for a face to face interpreter to arrive. It is hoped that the service, initially trialled in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, will have a significant impact on the experience of Deaf patients, particularly with regard to unplanned visits.

The online service means that in an emergency staff can quickly link up to an interpreter – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – and communicate with their patient. It is also useful for hospital stays, when an interpreter is not always present. Patients can use the service to communicate with staff and with family members at home, helping to reduce the feeling of isolation.

BSL Online is part of a range of work currently being undertaken by NHSGGC to promote BSL as a language and culture and improve the experience of our Deaf BSL patients.

The BSL Online service is available across a range of sites including:

  • Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Care
  • Dykebar Hospital
  • Gartnavel General Hospital
  • Glasgow Royal Infirmary
  • Inverclyde Royal Hospital
  • Leverndale Hospital
  • Maternity Services at QEUH, Princess Royal Maternity and Royal Alexandra Hospital
  • New Stobhill Hospital
  • New Victoria Hospital
  • Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH)
  • Ravenscraig Hospital
  • Royal Alexandra Hospital
  • Royal Hospital for Children
  • Vale of Leven Hospital
  • West Glasgow Ambulatory Care Hospital

NHSGGC staff can find updates and site-specific information on Staffnet.

Communicating with Deaf people during the COVID 19 pandemic

It is vital to ask a patient who may appear to be deaf how they would like to communicate. You can do this using paper and pen or a notepad app on a tablet or mobile.

Deaf people have different ways of communicating. They may want to lip read, use BSL or bit of both. You can also ask if they would like to write things down (avoiding sharing writing tools).

For more information please refer to Communication for people with sensory loss during the COVID-19 pandemic: advice for health and social care staff in Scotland

Deaf Awareness sessions

We can offer a short deaf awareness session that can be delivered online or face to face. The session lasts 30 minutes and is open to all staff.

The learning session covers how to work with BSL interpreters, deafness as a cultural identity and exploring BSL as a language as its own right. This learning will enable staff to communicate more confidently with our Deaf patients and ultimately provide the best possible care.

For more information please contact Paul Hull

Deafness & Mental Health

Deaf people can be at higher risk of mental health problems due to communication barriers and isolation. We also know from talking to Deaf patients that they face barriers to accessing mental health services because of a lack of information in British Sign Language and understanding of Deaf culture in general. NHSGGC wants to improve access to mental health services and ensure that they are the best they can be for the Deaf community. We have recently introduced a glossary of BSL signs for mental health on our BSL You Tube channel.

Introducing Paul Hull, Health Improvement Practitioner for the Deaf Community regarding Mental Health:

Peer Support Worker for Deaf people

A Deaf Mental Health Peer Support Worker has been employed to work across 5 Community Mental Health Teams (CMHT) in Greater Glasgow & Clyde. They will use their lived experience to support patients from the Deaf community in accessing CMHT’s and also in their own recovery journey.

The Peer Support Worker is part of the multi-disciplinary team in Adult Mental Health Services with in-reach to patients whilst in hospital. It is hoped that this support may help patients avoid admission to hospital or reduce the length of stay. 

Mental Health A-Z Guide
BSL – You Tube channel

A wide range of information is available in BSL on our NHSGGC You Tube channel.

Learn Basic BSL 

This 10 week course teaches basic skills in using sign and communicating with our Deaf BSL patients. The course is open to all staff and provides the opportunity to learn new skills that can significantly improve the experience of Deaf people using our services. 

Please note this training is currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

BSL Health Champions

The BSL Health Champions are a group of volunteers from the Deaf BSL community who are patients of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. The Champions advise NHSGGC about the main issues and concerns for BSL patients when using our hospitals and other health services. They also work with us to make information about health accessible for BSL users.

Group meetings are public and any Deaf BSL user who lives in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area is welcome to attend. The group also has a Facebook page which is used to share information and to get feedback from the BSL community.