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P166 When English isn’t your first language: supporting deaf people in end of life care
  1. Melanie Hodson1,
  2. Jill Ede2,
  3. Rowena Dean3 and
  4. Rebecca Edwards4
  1. 1Help the Hospices, London, UK
  2. 2Info to Go Ltd, Cambridge, UK
  3. 3SignHealth, Beaconsfield, UK
  4. 4Remark!, London, UK


Identified as a significant public health issue, hearing loss affects more than 10 million people in the UK. This figure is expected to rise to 14.5 million by 2031 [1] and the WHO anticipates that adult onset hearing loss will be amongst the top ten health problems* in the UK by 2030 [2]. Approximately 50,000 people use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first or preferred language [3].

It is thought that of those dying each year in England and Wales, more than 70,000 will be deaf or hard of hearing and it is reported that there is ‘little deaf awareness within the world of palliative care’ [4].

Low deaf awareness amongst health staff and insufficient communication support means that people with hearing loss can find health services difficult and frustrating to use and family members may be inappropriately used as interpreters.

Access to end of life care can be impeded by communication difficulties and low health literacy. Research suggests that people who are deaf may have limited understanding of their choices for end of life care [5]. Pain and symptom management can be key issues [6] and a literature review indicates that there is little information available in BSL to help people find out about hospice care.

We discuss barriers to communication, impacts of a lack of deaf awareness, outline ways in which hospice care professionals can support people who are deaf and present a new BSL hospice care information resource.

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