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Media Release: "Clarity still required" on future of dementia services for BSL patients

Publication date:

Start: Feb 2, 2015 12:00:00 AM

The Director of an internationally renowned British research centre, specialising in the fields of sign language, psychology and neuroscience, has stated that the UK Government needs to do more to ensure the provision of a vital service to diagnose dementia in deaf patients using British Sign Language.

The remarks were made by Prof Bencie Woll, the Director of The Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL), part of University College London and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, following a Short Debate secured by Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede in the Upper House, on mental health services for Sign Language users, which took place on Monday night (2 February).

With the firm focus of the debate centred on the appropriate levels of commissioning for specialist therapeutic and mental health services for British Sign Language (BSL) users, Lord Ponsonby raised the issue of the pilot Cognitive Disorders Clinic, run jointly by DCAL and the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) and questioned whether the future of the service could be maintained unless it could be commissioned and funded centrally by the NHS.

Prof Woll and her colleagues at DCAL, have led a sustained campaign to secure public funding to provide a permanent specialist neurological service for Deaf patients, with appropriate diagnostic testing and with trained staff who understand both neurology and deafness. DCAL has been working with UCLH to pilot access for Deaf patients to their diagnostic clinic but this short-term funded project will cease in 2015.

“Currently there is no permanent specialist neurology provision to properly assess and diagnose Deaf patients who present with acquired neurological symptoms”, said Prof Woll. “So when a Deaf BSL user with an acquired neurological disability, such as a neurodegenerative disease, like dementia, presents to a clinician in primary care, DCAL’s research indicates that they are often subjected to under-diagnosis, late-diagnosis or misdiagnosis. The consequences of this can be distressing for the patient and the family but it can also lead to poor health outcomes and inefficient use of valuable NHS resources.”

“My colleagues and I have long advocated that it is essential that GPs are able to refer Sign Language users to a specialist clinic where experts can make an early and timely diagnosis on a par with other patients - that is why we established the pilot clinic with our colleagues at the National Hospital for Neurosurgery and Neurology. However, this specialist service does not have long-term funding and when DCAL’s grant support from the ESRC comes to an end, the future of the service is precariously balanced unless UK Ministers and NHS England make a national specialist service a commissioning priority and a funding reality.”

“I welcome the opportunity afforded by Lord Ponsonby’s debate to raise this matter again and to have noble Lords like Lord Hunt fighting our corner was extremely helpful. Moreover, the commitment made by the Minister (Lord Howe) of establishing a working group to look at the way mental health services are provided for Deaf BSL users, was also a positive development.

“However, I am concerned that unless a permanent specialist neurological service for Deaf BSL users is formally established with public money, the health and well-being of those patients may further be compromised due to the continued denial of appropriate and equitable access to NHS treatments and services. I therefore hope the Government and NHS England can provide clarity on this issue so we can move forward.”

Launch of Continuing Professional Development Courses

Publication date:

Start: Jan 12, 2015 12:00:00 AM

In 2015 DCAL will be offering continuing professional development courses on a range of topics, based on the research expertise and knowledge of researchers at DCAL.

Discover UCL Summer School organised by DCAL and UCL's Widening Participation team wins the HELOA 2015 Best Practice and Innovation Award

Publication date:

Start: Feb 2, 2015 12:00:00 AM

The Discover UCL Summer School for Deaf/deaf students, organised by the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL) and UCL's Widening Participation team, has won the Higher Education Liaison Officers Association (HELOA) 2015 Best Practice and Innovation Award. 

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