Failings of newborn hearing screening programme: NDCS on the telly

Our campaign on the newborn hearing screening programme is getting good media coverage around London. In fact, the story was the headline story on ITV London news last night, reported by a journalist who has a deaf son himself and featuring an interview with NDCS’s Director of Policy and Campaigns. I was actually watching the interview from my window at work yesterday and managed to resist the temptation to shout out “Hello Mum!”

Anyhow, you can see the story here:

It’s great to be getting this kind of coverage, and the hope is that it’s putting pressure on the primary care trusts in London and the London Strategic Health Authority to do everything they can.

The only problem? The ITV online story doesn’t have subtitles, making it inaccessible for deaf people. But, for a change, the people at ITV did provide us with a transcript of the story. It’s not good enough but it’s better than nothing. Here’s how the story goes:

REPORTER SPEECH: Polly Burton is a mother to two deaf children but getting their disability diagnosed has been a tough and terrible battle which experts confirm will harm her daughter’s development. Baby Rosa is just six months old but never had her newborn hearing test. It’s only because her eldest sister is deaf that her disability was later identified. This is crucial for being given hearing test, sign language or trying to talk with specialist help.

SOUNDBITE: Polly Burton: “I think it is really worrying, obviously Isabella didn’t have the newborn hearing. If she did we would have been able to start the new sign language even earlier and even maybe, she wouldn’t have had that initial sort of language delay with her signed communication.”

REPORTER SPEECH: The National Deaf Children’s Society campaigned for hearing tests and diagnosis before children are 4 weeks old. But an NHS report has shown not a single year in London when a140 children should have been diagnosed. Only half that number were actually identified.

SOUNDBITE: Brian Gale-National Deaf Children’s Society: “Well if they are not diagnosed early it can have long term implications on their life chances. They will be starting school with underdeveloped language that puts them at a distinctive disadvantage at their hearing with peers and that what the research would show is that language deficit follows them right through schooling they leave with fewer GCSE’S than other children and that has an impact on their life chances.”

REPORTER SPEECH: Polly’s eldest daughter Isabella was only identified as deaf at a year old. She now attends a special school but her speech is already two years behind her haring peers. Experts agree that a hearing child at three will have a vocabulary of about 700 words and an undiagnosed child may know just 25.

Wide shots of reporter sitting and talking on the floor with Isabella. Shots of the reporter in sign language saying to Isabella “Wow you are really clever aren’t you.”

REPORTER speaking, but you can’t see him in shot: The NHS report says delays in diagnosis in London are simply unacceptable as are the problems parents face in getting help. They say the screening at the moment simply isn’t fit for purpose.

REPORTER: Like Polly I’ve got some idea of the problem facing family’s when deaf children are diagnosed very late. My own middle son is profoundly deaf and he wasn’t diagnosed until after he was a year old and now that he is a teenager, he is at least three years behind all his hearing peers. Marcus Powell, London Tonight, Brixton.”

PS The story also got a mention in the Evening Standard.


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