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Alexandra Hospital staff to learn sign language thanks to generous League of Friends

A successful initiative to teach sign language to hospital staff will be extended thanks to the generosity of fundraisers.

The Alexandra Hospital League of Friends have donated £2000 to fund an additional 10-week course in British Sign Language (BSL) for staff at the Redditch hospital.

Courses have successfully taken place at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, with 30 staff learning basic BSL enabling them to have simple conversations with deaf patients and relatives.

It was set up following an idea by Chaplain, Rev. David Southall, and Porter, Steve Hartman, a British Sign Language tutor who himself became deaf 16 years ago due to a virus.

Thanks to the new funding, staff are now enrolling to the course at the Alexandra Hospital to begin in January. Those taking the course will learn basic greetings, as well as simple conversations about food, family and daily life.

Rev. David Southall said: “We are so grateful to the League of Friends for their donation. The course has proved to be highly popular, with more than 50 people applying for just 30 places. I myself have been learning sign language at Level 1 for a year now and it has been so rewarding.

“I think we can make a real difference to the life of our deaf patients and relatives by learning this language and being as inclusive as possible.”

Steve Hartman, British Sign Language instructor and hospital Porter said: “I am passionate about teaching sign language to NHS staff. This course is at beginners' level but will allow staff to be able to have simple conversations with Deaf patients and relatives. The most important thing is that Deaf patients and relatives can know that we take their hearing issues seriously and want to be as inclusive as possible.”

British Sign Language (BSL) is used by 50,000 people in the UK and Worcestershire’s hospitals often get visits from deaf patients relying upon BSL to communicate.

BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the UK Government in 2003 and it involves movements of the hands, body, face and head.

Many thousands of people who are not deaf also use BSL, either because they have deaf relatives or as a result of some contact with the British deaf community. The first group of staff at Worcestershire’s hospitals to undertake the course have now completed the course with some already using sign language with deaf patients.