DEAF patients visiting Great Western Hospital will receive extra help through a new virtual service.

The trust has invested in new iPads and a subscription to a British Sign Language service SignLive to improve the care deaf people receive.

SignLive provides an online interpreting service to help staff communicate with patients using sign language.

Deborah Tapley, head of patient advice liaison at the hospital, said: “We're so thrilled to have the ability to share this service with our deaf patients.

“Often, for somebody who is hard of hearing, hospital visits can be distressing or worrying.

“With the help of SignLive, we are hoping to reduce this anxiety and make the journey through hospital as easy as possible.”

But the hospital still offers face-to-face interpreters for longer or serious appointments.

“If they want to talk to someone for any reason, they can ask for a face-to-face interpreter. The iPads will be used for quicker appointments.

“Sometimes patients want to check the time of a meeting and they will have to come directly to the hospital only for one question. With SignLive, they can register online and get their answers without the need to travel to the hospital.”

There are four iPads available to assist patients. They can also bring their own iPads if needed. “We have one iPad on a stand and three ipads can be carried around with the patients. If a deaf patient is in an ambulance, he or she can communicate with the staff and then we would be able to set up the iPad for when they arrive.”

The service has already been given the thumbs up by patients. Derek Fitchett said: “I love SignLive. It such a good service that really needs to be promoted to the deaf community in Swindon.”