Health issues and access to health services

Woman pushing another woman in a wheelchair

Health issues

The Scottish Household Survey is a continuous survey based on a sample of the general population in private residences in Scotland. It provides up-to-date information on the make-up, characteristics and behaviour of Scottish households. It includes information on disability and health. 

According to research by Chang et al, people experiencing serious mental health problems are likely to die around 10 years earlier than their counterparts who do not have such problems.

The health needs assessment report, People with Learning Disabilities in Scotland found that people with learning disabilities have a reduced life expectancy in comparison to the wider population.

Accessing health services

Inequalities in access to health care exist for disabled people. For example:

  • A formal investigation by the Disability Rights Commission, Equal treatment: closing the gap, found that in England and Wales, people with learning difficulties are less likely to use diagnostic services: women with learning difficulties have fewer mammograms and cervical smears.
  • The report, A Simple Cure, by Action on Hearing Loss Scotland highlighted that due to inaccessible communication practices, 19 per cent of deaf people have missed 5 or more GP appointments due to them not hearing staff calling out their name.
  • Research from RNIB Scotland found that blind and partially sighted people had missed appointments, had difficulty understanding their medical conditions and taken the wrong amount of medication as a result of not receiving information in a preferred reading format.
  • Other research by RNIB into the experiences of blind and partially sighted people who had used NHS services found that barriers to health information remain widespread and that more progress needs to be made to ensure that health information is accessible.

The Scottish Government´s Better Together Inpatient Survey presents qualitative data of the experiences of 10,000 inpatients. In August 2011 they published a report exploring variations in the experiences of different groups of inpatients in Scotland including disabled people.   

The variations report revealed that disabled people and people with translation, interpreting and communication support needs had a poorer experience of inpatient services.

Translation, interpreting and communication support

The NHS Scotland Competency Framework for Interpreting provides clear, precise and simple guidance for those working with people with preferred communication other than spoken English. As services and agreements differ across each geographical area in Scotland, this document can be adapted to include local information relevant to interpreting.

Now we´re talking: Interpreting guidelines for staff of NHS Scotland provides the basics necessary for health care staff to use interpreting services effectively.

Updated April 2015

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