The equality team in NHS Health Scotland is working to strengthen equality of access for all in NHS Scotland through its health inequalities impact assessment, which will include those who use British Sign Language. In addition, we are supporting NHS 24 to provide an in-house centralised resource of BSL interpreters for NHS Scotland by funding four places on the Heriot-Watt University BSL undergraduate degree for four years.
Although the interpreter service that NHS Fife uses for the deaf community is excellent, does the minister agree that improving the co-ordination of services is crucial for BSL users who need additional assistance to communicate, so that their medical needs are fully understood and addressed by medical staff and themselves?
I fully agree with David Torrance that good co-ordination of BSL services is crucial if we are to ensure that patients receive the person-centred care that they require. I am aware of the changes that were made in the NHS Fife area, where the BSL service was brought in-house, which allowed NHS Fife to enhance the quality of provision.
Our hospital staff have clear and easy-to-follow protocols for accessing an interpreter for BSL users when they go to hospital. Of course, I have no doubt that we can make further progress on ensuring that patients who are BSL users get the necessary support. However, it is clear that the changes in the NHS Fife area will help to improve the quality of the services that are delivered there.