Petition launched to stop hospitals using children to interpret sign language to deaf family members

A woman from Birmingham had said she will never forget the day she had to act as an interpreter between her profoundly deaf mum and doctors in hospital when her dad died.

Pearl Clinton, who lives in Erdington, was 12 years old when she had to communicate the awful news of her dad's death to her mum in 2003.

Now 30, Pearl says the situation has hardly improved for the deaf community and she's campaigning for more British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters to be booked for all appointments and medical emergency settings.

She says without interpreters peoples' most traumatic experiences can also end up being the most isolating. 

Margaret Cummins, Pearl's mum, said: "I'm still angry about it, and I feel very ashamed of the system.

"It's the same story over and over again. Did they have the budget for interpreted support? Yes.

"Where's that money going? Because we're not receiving that support that we're we're entitled to."

A similar situation happened again two years ago when Pearl's Grandma was seriously ill in hospital, as both her deaf mum and uncle needed Pearl and her cousins to interpret for them.

They had to take months off work because an interpreter was not provided.

Pearl said: "It's all well good on paper, but the needs are being met in reality.

"The people at the top, they see all these tick boxes have been ticked, but it's just not relaying into hospitals.

"It's just really important that deaf people have that communication when they go to their medical appointments, without relying on their children."

Pearl and her mum Margaret say healthcare is entirely inaccessible to the deaf community without interpreters Credit: ITV News Central

Both incidents where Pearl had to interpret for her mother happened at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham.

In response, Heartlands Hospital said: "Interpreting services are available for both inpatients and outpatients at our hospitals and can be requested by both patients and clinicians where there is any language barrier, including BSL."

But Pearl says these services are not always easy to access, or staff aren't aware of them.

She has set up a petition calling for easier access, after having heard from many in the deaf community who say they have had similar situations up and down the country.

The petition has hit over 5,000 signatures, and Pearl wants to take it to parliament.

The NHS has guidance for all medical services on booking interpreter and translation services. In the document it reads:

"Patients should be able to access primary care services in a way that ensures their language and communication requirements do not prevent them receiving the same quality of healthcare as others."