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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2006, 06:43 GMT
GPs test communication software
GPs across Canterbury will be testing out the computer programme
GPs in Kent are to use a computer programme that will help them communicate with people with hearing difficulties or limited English.

The government is paying for Canterbury and Coastal Primary Care Trust (PCT) to use the programme on a trial basis.

Sign, the charity that developed it, said communication problems could cause misunderstandings and misdiagnosis.

The software translates health workers' questions into videoed sign language or one of 12 languages in audio form.

It also prints out information sheets for the patient about their medical condition, or simple advice on how to take their medication.

'Disturbing' research

The PCT has 29 GP practices and is one of 303 trusts across England to be offered the programme on a trial basis, funded by the Department of Health.

Steve Powell, chief executive of Sign, said: "More than 60% of GP appointments do not provide communication support to people with hearing difficulties or to those who have limited English."

The charity said government research had found "a disturbing picture where deaf and hard of hearing people face difficult and often distressing obstacles in order to access the NHS".

The programme has been recommended by the Department of Health and the National Institute for Mental Health.

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