An n-compass Advocacy Hub received a referral for a profoundly deaf female called Judy, who had been admitted to a mental health ward. A mental health ward is stressful at the best of times but would be particularly difficult for Judy, who would be unable to understand what was happening or express her wishes. 

As such, Judy was allocated an advocate proficient in British Sign Language (BSL) to ensure language was not a barrier. When the advocate met Judy, it was evident that she felt isolated and frustrated. Judy presented as very unwell. From her first presenting at A&E to eventually being admitted to the ward, communication had been difficult as the hospital had no interpreter service on site. 

The advocate immediately built a rapport with Judy and reassured her that her preferences would be listened to. At the advocate’s suggestion and with Judy’s consent, the hospital negotiated with Judy’s care providers and allowed support workers from her accommodation to assist her. This went some way to alleviate the daily frustrations, but the advocate became aware that the hospital was using the support workers to facilitate communication in more formal interventions, such as ward review meetings, which was inappropriate. 

BSL/English interpreters are highly skilled and trained individuals that must be registered with a professional regulatory body. As a result of the advocate’s intervention, the hospital agreed to provide professional, qualified interpreters for all important future appointments, such as ward review meetings. 

Judy could finally express her views and wishes and discuss her mental health in a meaningful and helpful way. The advocate continued supporting Judy and noted that she seemed happier and was more confident in expressing her wishes and feelings to the clinical team.