contractSCOTLAND: Review of the service extension pilot

The contactSCOTLAND review was undertaken to understand uptake and usage of the extended pilot service and gather information on stakeholders’ views and experiences of the contactSCOTLAND service.

Executive Summary[1]


ContactSCOTLAND is a pilot online British Sign Language (BSL) video relay interpreting service. It aims to connect Deaf BSL users to Scotland's public authorities through the use of BSL/English interpreters. It was first introduced in April 2012 as an NHS 24 service to enable better access to telephone health services for Deaf BSL users. An initial review[2] found that uptake had been low but that stakeholders agreed that the service should continue in a revised form. An extended version of the service funded by Scottish Government and covering all Scottish public services was launched by the Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health on 2 March 2015.

The aim of the contactSCOTLAND pilot is to provide a BSL online video relay interpreting service which is high quality, continually improving, efficient and responsive to user needs. The specific objectives are to:

  • Extend the NHS 24 BSL interpreting service pilot to allow users to access a wider range of public services/agencies.
  • Measure and evaluate the extended service and make recommendations on its future.
  • Engage with BSL users to ensure that the service is fit for purpose, cost effective and to encourage uptake of the service.

Aim and approach of the review

In order to support these objectives Scottish Government Health Analytical Services worked with the Deaf Sector Partnership[3] to review the pilot service. The purpose of the review was understand uptake and usage of the extended pilot and gather information on stakeholders' views and experiences of the contactSCOTLAND service. This report presents the findings of the review and is based primarily on management information about the service and feedback from a range of stakeholders.

Main findings

The review indicated that as part of a range of interpreting options, contactSCOTLAND offers a valuable service to the Deaf community. Those who have used the service have been able to access a range of public services and in doing so have benefited from increased independence, empowerment and choice. Overall, those who had used the service were positive about the ease of use and were satisfied with the service. However, it's clear that improvements could be made, particularly around the quality and reliability of the technology as users have experienced problems[4]. The review also found that awareness and understanding of the service could be improved.

The experience of those who had used the service was mainly positive, with users and other stakeholders suggesting that it offered a means for BSL users to increase their access to services. The various ways in which users felt that the service could be improved related to user guidance, the interpreting service, and the service remit. The need for the quality and reliability of the technology to be improved and sustained was stressed by many review participants. Improvements related to the interpreting service were mainly about having a choice of interpreter and improving the queuing system. The provision of awareness raising and training and additional guidance in BSL were suggested. There were a range of suggestions for extending the service including the operating hours and the range of organisations that can be contacted. There was limited feedback from non-users, but it was suggested that more information about the service and more user friendly technology could increase use of the service.

Recommendations for on-going service improvement

The extended contactSCOTLAND service is currently being piloted with the intention to move to full implementation in Autumn 2016. Based on the information available for this review, the following recommendations have been put forward for the development of the service and to help inform the development of a new service specification:

  • There is an on-going need for awareness raising and outreach work to increase the use and understanding of contactSCOTLAND and its remit alongside other interpreting options.
  • The survey responses suggest a number of potential avenues for doing this including the provision of additional BSL guidance on how to use the service and increased promotional activity from public services and Deaf networks. This may require initial work with these organisations on the role and purpose of contactSCOTLAND.
  • In order to overcome some of the challenges in seeking feedback on the service, the development of forums for on-going feedback could be considered whether through an online user group or online comments or other appropriate options.
  • The quality and reliability of the technology were recurring themes, suggesting a need for this to be kept under review and to ensure that adequate technical support and guidance is available.
  • Consideration should be given to the options for extending the access to additional services.
  • There is currently a limited range of systematic management information on the service. A wider range of information on levels of regular and unique users, where calls are being directed and user feedback would enable more in-depth on-going service monitoring and evaluation.


Email: Alix Rosenberg

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