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Improving health
Previously NHS Health Scotland

The BSL National Plan 2017-2023 (external website) was developed following the British Sign Language (Scotland) act 2015 coming into force. The Plan sets out ten long-term goals for BSL in Scotland, covering:

  • early years and education
  • training and work
  • health, mental health and wellbeing
  • transport
  • culture and the arts
  • justice and democracy

NHS Scotland BSL Improvement Plan

As part of our commitment to the National BSL Plan, we have engaged with partners in the BSL deaf/deafblind community, national and local NHS Boards, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Scottish Government policy leads to develop an NHS Scotland BSL Improvement Plan.

As part of this plan, we have produced resources to support NHS Boards with their responsibilities to service users and carers, including BSL users, who require support from interpreting or translation services. The resources reflect that COVID-19 has changed the way health care services are currently delivered in Scotland.

We recognise every NHS Board will have a different context to account for when developing their own interpretation and translation services. However, it is intended that NHS Boards will use these resources as a standard and basis for local adaptation.

NHS Scotland Interpreting, Communication Support and Translation National Policy

The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance on NHS Scotland responsibilities to service users and carers who require support from interpreting or translation services. It will help to ensure that service users and carers have equal access to excellent care by helping staff understand service users' needs. It will support staff to understand the interpreting and communication support they need to put in place, to ensure that patients who do not speak or use English as a first language, have equitable access to the health services they provide. This policy covers both interpreting and translation.

NHS Scotland Interpreting, Communication Support and Translation National Framework

The framework provides clear, precise and simple guidance for those working with service users with preferred communication other than spoken English. It will help NHS staff, interpreting providers and interpreters ensure that interpreting is carried out safely and effectively. This will then provide service users with a quality service, and support them in their care pathways. As services and agreements differ across each geographical area in Scotland, this document can be adapted to include local information relevant to interpreting.

Working with British Sign Language (BSL) users in primary care

This guidance aims to support and improve General Practice (GP) staff awareness, and to improve the access issues faced by BSL users in primary care. This will ensure equal access to GP services for deaf and hearing of hearing populations as outlined in the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015.

Further support

There is support for BSL users on the NHS Inform (external website).

You can access e-learning modules on BSL and Tactile BSL awareness and Making Communication Better.

You can also view a script for Deaf BSL Users on BSL National resources produced by NHS Scotland (external website)