Information and advice for staff supporting people with sensory impairment

It is likely that you will be caring for people who have existing sensory impairments during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • An estimated 80,000 people in Edinburgh have a hearing loss, mostly acquired in later life
  • 4,000 people in Edinburgh have joined the sight loss register
  • An estimated 600 people in Edinburgh are Deaf BSL users
  • At least 500 people in Edinburgh are deafblind.

We have compiled some information and advice to help you support people with a sensory impairment during this crisis.

National Guidelines

NHS 24 and the Scottish Government have produced guidance for Health and Social Care staff to help them communicate with people with sensory impairment during the COVID-19 pandemic. This document was written by a coalition of organisations working with people with sensory impairments.

Download the guidance.

Watch the filmed version. This includes a BSL translation and subtitles.

Booking a British Sign Language interpreter

NHS Lothian staff can book a BSL interpreter through the NHS Lothian intranet or by phoning 0131 536 2020 and choosing option five. You can also email enquiries to

City of Edinburgh Council staff can book a BSL interpreter by e-mailing the Interpretation and Translation Service – The service is currently unable to take any bookings over the phone.

Personal listeners

Picture of an NHS worker using a personal listener with a person with sensory impairmentPersonal listener kit

Personal listeners are great for improving communication with people with hearing loss, particularly people who rely on lipreading and can’t due to staff use of masks. All Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership staff, and staff working in NHS Lothian acute sites in Edinburgh can borrow a personal listener from NHS Lothian Audiology by e-mailing and marking the email for the attention of Denise Rennex, or calling 0131 536 1637.

Hearing aid batteries

You can contact NHS Lothian Audiology if you urgently need new batteries for an inpatient’s hearing aids by e-mailing or calling 0131 536 1637.

Video resources

Ideas for Ears have created a video that provides essential information about the problems that arise on phone and video calls and how to fix them. There is also a handy summary sheet to use alongside the video.

For information and advice for members of the public with sensory impairment, including service updates, visit this page