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Sign Language Interpreting Services Update – September 2021

19th October 2021

The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and Business Services Organisation (BSO)  are working to improve the system behind Sign Language Interpreting Services.  This means Deaf people’s access to their GP, hospitals, dentists, optometrists, social work teams, pharmacy – everything to do with health and social care.

  • We invited Deaf people who use BSL and ISL to two online meetings on 8 and 9 September.
  • More than 35 people joined us. This was great: the discussion was very informative.
  • We are grateful to everyone who came and shared their feedback.
  • Thank you also to the people who told us that they were attending on behalf of others, and will share the information with their networks.


  • At the meetings, we explained that this work began more than 10 years ago, by inviting feedback from the Deaf community about how the system needs to change and improve.
  • We acknowledged there have been delays and challenges over the years, and that we paused the work in January to engage with interpreters.
  • In our conversations with interpreters, we have all agreed that the most important thing is to deliver a high quality, professional interpreting service that works for Deaf people.
  • With that agreement, it was time to come back to the Deaf community again, to listen to what you believe is most important.
  • So what did we hear from you at the BSL and ISL meetings in September?

You told us told us the following things are very important:

  • a confidential service;
  • a service that provides interpreters with a high standard of skills and experience;
  • a service that is accessible, with a transparent and reliable booking process, that gives you confidence that Interpreters have been booked for appointments;
  • guaranteed and reliable cover for all appointments across Northern Ireland – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including emergencies and out of hours;
  • accessible and highly confidential methods to give positive feedback or make complaints where necessary;
  • continuity of interpreter for complex health issues such as mental health appointments;
  • choice of male/female interpreters for sensitive matters;
  • access to remote interpreting that links effectively with the face to face interpreting;
  • the ongoing improvement of the link between face to face and remote interpreting, and good support for people to access it – especially those in rural areas and older people; and
  • the importance of involving and including Deaf people in the process – both by ongoing public engagement and by considering opportunities to recruit Deaf people as staff and support workers.

Thank you for this valuable feedback.  We are listening and learning, and we will use this information to shape the way forward.

Next steps – how to get in touch with us if you have more feedback to share in relation to the Sign Language Interpreting Service.

Please email the Project team directly who will arrange a time to meet with you. or You can also contact your Sensory Support Team who will ensure your information is shared in confidence with us.

In the meantime: we will continue to work on the plans for improving the system, and we will keep you updated as that work progresses.