Services for deaf people

Guidance for commissioners of primary care mental health services for deaf peopleThis guide is about the commissioning of primary care mental health services for deaf people.

It has been written by a group with expertise and experience in the mental health of deaf people, including deaf and hearing professionals and academic researchers, in consultation with deaf patients and carers. The content is evidence-based and includes guidelines deemed to be best practice by expert consensus where the formal evidence-base may be lacking.

By the end of this guide, readers should:

  • be more familiar with the particular needs of deaf people who have mental health problems, including issues of access, developmental difference, language and culture.
  • understand what effective primary care mental health services for deaf people should look like.
  • be aware of the range of services and interventions that should be on offer.
  • understand how those interventions can contribute to achieving recovery outcomes and make improvements in public mental health and wellbeing.

Download Guidance for commissioners of primary care mental health services for deaf people | Guidance for commissioners of primary care mental health services for deaf people

The video below explains more about the guidance.


Ten key messages for commissioners

  1. Deaf people find it difficult to access healthcare, face communication barriers and, as a consequence, have poorer mental and physical health than the rest of the population.
  2. Everyone who uses mental health services should have equitable access to effective interventions, and equitable experiences and outcomes. Under the Equality Act 2010 Deaf people are included as having ‘protected characteristics’.
  3. Due to their unique life experiences, Deaf people require different primary mental health care. Commissioners should commission appropriate cultural and linguistic provisions when planning services for Deaf people.
  4. Psychological therapy in British Sign Language (BSL) is as cost effective, if not more so, than a hearing therapist using a BSL/ English interpreter.
  5. Deaf people should be able to choose to receive primary care psychological therapy services in BSL directly from a BSL practitioner, without needing a sign language interpreter, if that is their choice.
  6. A comprehensive commissioning strategy is required to enable an appropriate BSL psychological therapy service to be available.
  7. Commissioners need to ensure that Deaf people have a clear care pathway that is equitable to the general population.
  8. Commissioners need to include Deaf professionals in their workforce planning strategy.
  9. Deaf people need to be involved with the ongoing development of Deaf primary care mental health services.
  10. Where services are commissioned that require sign language interpretation, commissioners must ensure the provision of interpreters is of a high standard, as highlighted in NHS England’s Principles for High Quality Interpreting and Translation Services in Primary Care 2016 and forthcoming NHS England guidelines for the commissioning of interpreting and translation services.