Student midwives at De Montfort University in Leicester will automatically receive an accolade for being first. That's because they are pioneers in learning basic sign language skills to support deaf women in labour. They will also be taught about issues facing deaf people.

This innovative course means they'll be able to communicate with deaf women without an interpreter, which will help greatly in emergency situations, where an interpreter may not easily be available.

Bernadette Gregory, senior lecturer in midwifery at DMU, is running the course with the help of local charity Action Deafness. She said: "We decided to run these sessions to highlight the fact that midwives are personally and professionally accountable under the new Equality Act, which came into force in October 2010, to offer the best possible, non-discriminatory care, to all women and their partners

"We hope to teach the next generation of midwives how to communicate and provide better care to these women at such an important time in their lives. I believe that we are the first university to run this type of training and I hope by highlighting this issue, midwives and other health care professionals will introduce it into their training."

Dr Joanna Downes, from the charity, said: "These workshops are not only about teaching British sign Language (BSL) but they enlighten the student midwives on the psychological, emotional, social and communication issues facing deaf parents and hearing parents of newly diagnosed deaf babies.

"Many deaf parents face challenges and barriers accessing the same services that other people get and during times of pregnancy and labour, it can be even more stressful for them. The aim of this is to make the pregnancy and labour experiences for both the deaf parents and NHS professionals more positive and effective."

Posted by Penny Hosie on 21.2.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: Penny.hosie@pavpub.com