Online British Sign Language Video Relay Interpreting Service Pilot Launches

Categories: News

Currently, the Scottish Government is funding an NHS 24 online BSL Video Relay Interpreting Service pilot which aims to improve access to health services for people in Scotland who are Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.  The pilot is helping to tackle the barriers and discrimination that the Deaf community face and supports public services in meeting their legal obligations in relation to the Human Rights Act 1998, Equality Act 2010 and Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011.


In recognition that the Deaf community deserves to have access to the same public services as everyone else, Ministers have agreed that the NHS 24 pilot should be extended to the rest of the public sector in Scotland and rebranded ‘contactSCOTLAND’.


This is a new cutting edge programme – it is the first nationally funded public sector Video Relay Interpreting Service pilot in the UK. It is a practical and innovative example of specific action being taken towards implementing Scotland’s Digital Public Services Strategy which is a key priority of Programme for Government 2014-15.


The Scottish Government is committed to securing the best possible future services for the Deaf community.   With this in mind, from Monday 2nd March 2015 service users will be able to contact any public service they need through the BSL Video Relay Interpreting Service.  The new extended online interpreting service will allow Deaf people throughout Scotland to use BSL to make contact (webcam/signing) with public services, such as, their Doctor, Police Scotland, Council Services, Housing, Social Work and NHS 24.  It is NOT for Emergency 999 calls.  In the event of an Emergency, service users will need to use alternative ways, for example, text or get someone to call on their behalf.


This new service is part of a range of communication measures for the Deaf community and does not replace, for example, the traditional face to face interpreting services which currently exist.  If you receive a call from a Deaf person using the VRS system you should treat it in the same way as you would if it was from a hearing person. The only difference is that there is an interpreter acting as an intermediary: they will tell you this when you answer the phone. You simply need to be aware that you may receive a call in this way.  You can also make a call to a Deaf person using the same system.


A multi-agency Implementation Group, comprising representatives from the Scottish Government, NHS 24, Police Scotland, Scottish Legal Aid Board, Renfrewshire Council and the Scottish Prison Service has been established to drive forward the next stage of the pilot.  The group will monitor and evaluate progress on the extended public sector wide service and make recommendations to Scottish Ministers on its future by summer 2015.


More information on how the BSL Video Relay Interpreting Service will work can be found on the contactSCOTLAND website at  The website includes a video clip in BSL.