SKYPE and sign language are being joined up so East Lancashire deaf patients get the right treatment and advice at Royal Blackburn Hospital’s Urgent Care Centre.

The new scheme combining the latest information technology and the trusted means of communicating with the hard of hearing will provide a new dimension to emergency treatment.

The innovative pilot project has been praised as 'fantastic' by East Lancashire Deaf Society boss Doug Alker.

Funded by the Blackburn with Darwen Council, it allows nurses at the centre to connect with a British Sign Language interpreter from the society via a Skype video call to translate for deaf patients and nursing staff when discussing symptoms and treatment.

The scheme uses a laptop equipped with a webcam and Skype account linked to iPads being used by on-call interpreters.

It will give deaf patients the same access to services as other patients for the first time and will save time and money.

Previously, assessment of deaf patients was delayed while an on-call interpreter travelled to the site incurring payment of travel expenses and time costs.

The project will be trialled for six months and evaluated.

East Lancashire hospitals equality manager Nazir Makda said: “This project enables us to remove any barriers that might be preventing people with hearing impairments from accessing our services and ultimately will improve the patient experience.”

Mr Alker said: “This is a fantastic development. Not only will it benefit deaf patients, hospital staff will be able to understand them. This innovative Blackburn-led project is likely to get replicated in other parts of the UK.”