Losing sight or hearing risks ‘less care,’ report says

People who struggle with their sight or hearing do not always have the care they need from the NHS in Wales, a group of experts claims.

The Welsh government asked a selection of professionals to look at health care provided to people with sensory loss.

They found a lack of understanding by health staff of people who were visually impaired or hard of hearing.

Their report recommends improvements in communication, training, care standards and inspection and complaint handling.

Tony Rucinski, chair of the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) Cymru, is registered blind and says he is familiar with the problems being raised.

“When you go and use the eye clinic, to use it you have to take a ticket from a machine which is located on a wall somewhere,” he said.

“When the number on that ticket comes up on a screen, you approach the reception desk which, if you can’t see, that’s a little bit tough, and when you get to that reception desk, the lady will ask you to take a seat which again is a little bit tough.

‘Sight loss’

“You can have some interesting experiences finding a seat with people already sat on them which can sometimes be fun and sometimes not.

“When somebody comes into the room with a white stick, if somebody could maybe say, ‘actually sir, can I give you a ticket’ – little things like that that people could do that might make a little bit of difference.”

Mr Rucinski said it was not specifically the NHS at fault, it was a “reflection of society”.

“The NHS, and sometimes people, just don’t realise and I fully understand, it’s because they haven’t experienced sight loss, they haven’t experienced hearing impairment so it’s difficult sometimes to imagine what it’s like to live like that,” he said.

The group established by the Welsh government was made up of representatives from Welsh government, the NHS, the voluntary sector and other relevant organisations.

They liaised with representatives from Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, RNIB Cymru and other people with sensory loss.

They concluded that people with sensory loss find it difficult to access the health services they need, and do not always receive the standard of care they should expect.

Health and Social Services Minster Lesley Griffiths AM is to launch the report and recommendations on Monday.