Reasonable adjustments

Following on from my previous post about my hospital visit on Monday and the hospital’s failure to provide an interpreter, I thought it would be useful to set out the position in relation to the Equality Act 2010’s duty to make reasonable adjustments imposed on service providers.

Let’s make one thing clear: hospitals (and any other medical services such as GP surgeries, physiotherapists etc., regardless of whether it’s free or private) do and have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments for Deaf patients. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments is not always clear cut, but as a general rule, adjustments have to be made by a service provider as long as it is reasonable.

What is reasonable depends on the particular circumstances of each and every case, but it will take into consideration:

  • The financial resources of the service provider AS A WHOLE (ie not individual departments for instance);
  • How practical it is to make the adjustments;
  • The costs of the adjustment; and
  • The availability of external funding or grants.

We all know that NHS Trusts, Primary Care Trusts (or GP Consortia as they are now known) and other medical services have budgets that run into millions of pounds, so the last thing you should expect to hear is: “Oh, we can’t afford it!”.

The key message is this: informed consent. It is paramount that medical professionals obtain patients’ (or their next of kin) consent before embarking on any medical procedure unless the threat to their life or well being requires immediate intervention. A failure to do so opens up the NHS Trust or equivalent to legal action on the grounds of negligence.

It therefore baffles me why I see this issue cropping up time and time again; medical professionals or their staff routinely failing to provide interpreters. It’s for their benefit as well as Deaf patients. Also they can communicate effectively with the patient to find out their history, ails, pains, difficulties in order to provide the best treatment for them. You’d think medical professionals would WANT interpreters present all the time.

What is the cause of this innate inability or unwillingness to provide interpreters and make life that much easier for Deaf patients? Does the Hippocratic oath not matter to them? Don’t they CARE about their patients? Are NHS staff really so disillusioned working within the NHS that they no longer give a shit about patient care and obtaining consent? What makes them think they know what’s best for Deaf people?

I would strongly urge you to sign the Give Deaf patients access to appropriately qualified sign language interpreters petition. I have.


Deaf, hubby to Rachel, dad to Corey, Libby and Emily, Solicitor, Lecturer in Legal Practice at University of South Wales, PhD student at University of Leicester.

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. MM says:

    I live 2 miles from your office, and I can tell you there is no system of real access for the BSL user or indeed any other means we use for communication too. You need to know we at the business end daily battle to get ANY access to any primary health care area, be it GPs, hospitals, as they all operate independently from each other we fight each as and when.

    Also all appointments are being ‘centralised’ in Gwent to Pontypridd. The access there is a box number or, an mobile number that won’t accept text calls ! The result of that centralisation was a deaf woman here being not able to have an important scan to ascertain if her sight was deteriorating. To date,neither her GP NOR the primary care trust in Gwent has been able,to contact Pontypridd themselves.

    There is no published contact area for deaf/HI support in Gwent. The new information Centre 50 yards from your office has no deaf access…… Why our GP’s and primary care areas simply note we are deaf beats me. It should be mandatory that a patient that obviously requires comms support has this on all their notes, and NO appointment is made unless an qualified communicator is in attendance, that also means I challenge you as a lawyer to accept they must REFUSE to allow family to do that.

    Only be Primary care areas being forced to provide, will we get what we need, using a family as support takes away that need, and using own kids as unpaid and untrained support is ludicrous.

Leave a Reply