Signalise co-operative wins BSL NHS contract in Liverpool

The platform co-op will deliver a fully accessible BSL NHS Health interpreting service in the city

Signalise Co-op, the multi-stakeholder platform co-operative established in 2019 to revolutionise the booking of British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreters – has won the CCG Contract to deliver a fully accessible BSL NHS Health interpreting service in Liverpool.

The co-op created an online booking system designed entirely by its users, giving deaf people choice and control over the interpreters they use.

Signalise is co-owned and co-run by both members of the local deaf community and BSL/English interpreters, and any profit made is reinvested into the co-op and its community. Because everything is run online, costs are kept down and interpreters are paid fairly. 

“At long last we have a co-operative that really does listen and involve deaf members,” says co-op member Geraldine O’Halloran. “Our motto is ‘nothing about us without us’ and this means Signalise puts deaf clients at the very centre of the service. This has never happened before – deaf people have a real opportunity to take back control and ensure we work with our interpreters, as partners, to get the service we need. [This is a] great day, and liberating for the deaf community.”

The framework agreement between Signalise and NHS Liverpool CCG is part of a wider programme to improve access to healthcare, and includes provision for other NHS partners from Merseyside and Cheshire to join the arrangements in the coming year. The new sign language services go live for GPs in Liverpool on 1 September 2021.

High profile supporters include John McDonnell MP and disability activist and author Ellen Clifford. And this summer the co-op raised £328,250 in a community share offer – £28,000 over its £300,000 target. Signalise was awarded funding by the Liverpool City Region Future Innovation Fund to develop a VRS service (video interpreting), and they also received a £10,000 donation from the National Education Union (NEU).

“We are delighted to be working with Liverpool CCG to deliver an accessible and user led provision,” added Ms O’Halloran. 

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“Signalise Co-op is a user-led co-operative of deaf community members and local Interpreters – we are equal partners and this means we can help to develop and deliver an accessible communication service for local NHS medical access.

“Remember deaf people are the experts of their own needs, we know what we need to get the right support, information and advice on our medical access.”

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