New milestone for the BSL Charter

SW London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust sign the BSL CHarter

Dr Terry Riley, Chair of the BDA, tells British Deaf News about the first signing of the BSL Charter by a Deaf mental health services provider.

The BDA’s BSL Charter reached another milestone in London on Monday (Feb 13) with the first signing by a Mental Health services provision for Deaf People.

The signing by South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust took place at Springfield Hospital in Tooting, South London in front of an invited audience of more than sixty.

The BDA has for a long time been associated in some small way with Deaf mental health services; the first being the Deaf mental health units at Whittingham Hospital, Preston under Dr. John Denmark, which then became the John Denmark Unit in Prestwich, led by Dr. Brendan Monterio. The London service, at that time, was under Dr. Nick Kitson and the Birmingham service was led Dr. Margaret du Feu.

It was a pleasure to be at Springfield Hospital which, as we know, has been around now for over 40 years. They have done a tremendous amount of good work in that time.

One area which was highlighted and impressed upon at the signing was the Development of the Deaf Recovery Tool.  Having this presented by one of the Deaf service users, Janet Richards, was fantastic.  Janet co-presented this with Jackie Wan, a community mental health nurse, and it was a true eye-opener as it revealed how visual communication methods and appropriate language are vital in both the assessment and therapeutic provisions for deaf service users, and staff, in this unique service environment.

Herbert Klein led a session explaining how the hospital trust conducted a review of their services and how they fell short for allowing access to Deaf staff and service users.  It was mind-boggling to hear that when this review started, some 3 years ago, they had 173 “red light” issues to resolve.  After hard work and dedication the trust has made all the necessary changes to their services and policies and today all 173 areas of improvement have been completed. What an achievement!

It is for this very reason that South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust were awarded the BDA’s recognition for all the impressive work that they have done.  The BDA we will be holding them up as a model of excellence for other hospitals to follow.

What is happening at the National Deaf Services (NDS) sends out a very positive message to all services supporting Deaf people with mental health issues, and that message is that access is so important to ensure Deaf people’s well-being. We know Mental Health is high on the national agenda, but can we say the same for Deaf Mental Health services? Evidence shows that a lack of access to services can exacerbate a person’s mental health problems. It is, therefore, very important that when receiving treatment that there is full access, via appropriate communication and language, and this is why the Deaf users and Deaf staff at NDS are doing this very important work.

The journey, on the long road ahead, has now begun and even though the end maybe far away we all saw the beacon being lit today and it was my pleasure to witness it.

Terry Riley Chair BDA (@TerryRiley44)

Herbert Klein: @deafstirup
South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust: @SWLSTG

What is the BSL Charter?
The BDA’s BSL Charter, which now has more than 35 signatories around the country, is designed as a vehicle to remove direct and indirect discrimination, empower local deaf communities and resolve conflicts between service providers and Deaf people. Its aim is to increase awareness of Deaf issues and BSL issues and provide better educational opportunities for Deaf children.

Five pledges of the BSL Charter:
i) Ensure access for Deaf people to information and services
ii) Promote learning and high quality teaching of British Sign Language (BSL)
iii) Support Deaf children and families
iv) Ensure staff working with Deaf people can communicate effectively in BSL
v) Consult with the local Deaf community on a regular basis

Some notable signatories:
Birmingham City Council
Blackpool Council
Bridgend Council
Bristol City Council
Camden Council
Derby City Council
Derbyshire County Council
Devon County Council
Harrow Council
Leicester City Council
Leicestershire County Council
Leicestershire Police
Nottingham City Council
Nottinghamshire County Council
Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
Nottinghamshire Police
Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust
University Coventry & Warwickshire Hospitals

More about the BDA’s BSL Charter here