Disabled People Face Barriers To Healthcare

Britain's Health Services Failing To Ensure Access For Disabled People

16.03.2015

Disabled people face significant barriers when visiting their GP or dentist because British health services are failing to provide adequate support, a new report has found.

A national study by patient group Healthwatch found that children as young as five are having to translate for their deaf parents at the doctor's. Relatives are also having to carry disabled family members up stairs to access a practice.

Deaf people in some parts of Britain have also been told they can only book a doctor's appointment over the phone, despite their disability. Other practices are not accessible by wheelchair, creating major hurdles for disabled people.

The study investigated 11,000 patients at 550 GP surgeries across Britain. 85% of people say they are happy with their doctor, but disabled patients are often unhappy due to facing a wide range of problems accessing even basic services. Health watchdog the Care Quality Commission admitted the findings are "worrying".

Anna Bradley, chairwoman of Healthwatch England, said: "We know from our conversations with the public that many are satisfied with the overall service they receive.

"Yet, when we dig beneath the surface, their experiences tell a different story, including reports from many patients with disabilities about communication problems and physical access barriers making it difficult for them to attend important appointments.

"Wherever physically possible, we want to see every GP and dentist surgery equipped with appropriate disabled access and provide hearing loops and translation service for those who are hearing impaired."

Expert Opinion
All patients deserve to have access to safe high-quality care and treatment, but this research has raised major concerns regarding the obstacles that some vulnerable people are facing.

"Of particular concern is the suggestion that communication barriers exist, as it is vital that doctors are able to clearly inform patients of their thoughts on treatment and care.

"The study is important food for thought for both the NHS and private healthcare providers, as well as a wake-up call that they need to ensure that services are easily accessible to everyone who may require them."
Mandy Luckman, Partner