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GPs offered free access to sign language program

By Steve Nowottny

GPs are to be given free access to a web-based sign language program to offer better access to deaf patients, it was announced this week.

SignHealth, a healthcare charity for deaf people, is making its SignTranslate program available free of charge to every practice in England until 31 July 2009.

The program translates over 300 medical questions into British Sign Language using shot video clips, and also gives spoken and written translations into 12 foreign languages.

GPs can also use the program to access ‘live' fully qualified British Sign Language interpreters via a webcam for more complex consultations, although this will incur an additional charge of £2.50 per minute.

Steve Powell, chief executive of SignHealth, said: ‘With only about 400 fully qualified interpreters in England to support approximately 70,000 deaf people who use BSL as their first language, it can be a real challenge arranging a supported doctor's appointment.

‘By funding SignTranslate to be free for every GP in England, we hope that every deaf person will be able to see their doctor when they need to.'

Practices using EMIS software will be able to access SignTranslate via an embedded link from the EMIS desktop, while other practices can access the system by logging on to www.signtranslate.com.

A spokesperson for the charity told Pulse that the service was likely to cost practices between £65 and £200 after the end of the year's free trial.

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