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Belfast GP Surgery Pays Out Over Sign Language Interpreter Failure

July 23, 2021

The daughter of a deaf woman has been paid more than £4,000 by a Belfast GP surgery over a failure to offer a sign language interpreter in appointments.

Ida Curlett, who died in 2019, relied on her daughter Carole to interpret for her during appointments at the Parkside Surgery.

Ms Curlett and her mother were unaware they were entitled to an interpreter until told by a taxi driver in 2018.

The surgery made the £4,250 payment without admission of liability.

The disability discrimination case was brought by Carole Curlett on behalf of her mother with support from the Equality Commission.

‘It was a strain on both of us’

Ida Curlett, who was a British Sign Language user, was never offered a sign language interpreter at any of her many GP appointments despite being a patient for more than 30 years, the commission said.

Carole Curlett said her mother found the lack of privacy “difficult”.

“It was a strain on both of us,” she added.

“I’m glad it is settled now, but I can’t help feeling aggrieved that we went through all those years not even knowing she was entitled to an interpreter.”

Anne McKernan, director of legal services for the Equality Commission, said it was “disappointing” the commission was still dealing with the failure to provide access to everyday services.

“Not having a professional interpreter in place in a medical setting could give rise to problems not just for the patient, but also the practice – problems such as misdiagnosis, misunderstanding of how to follow a treatment plan or inadequate informed consent,” she said.

Ms McKernan said it had put an “unfair burden on the unofficial interpreter”.

The Parkside Surgery has agreed to use the services of sign language interpreters in future when dealing with deaf patients and to advertise this facility clearly within the surgery.

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