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Patients to benefit from new NHS England ‘Accessible Information Standard’

From today (13 August), NHS England will be consulting on improving access to information formats such as ‘easy read’ and braille and to British Sign Language interpreters.

Making sure hospitals, GP practices and other NHS and adult social service providers give people information in the best format for their needs, is the aim of NHS England’s proposed new ‘Accessible Information Standard’.

It means all organisations will need to find out if a patient has extra communication needs because of a disability or sensory loss, and take steps to meet those needs.

This could include large print, braille, easy read or via e mail or a British Sign Language interpreter.

Over winter 1,200 people shared their experiences and opinions in an engagement exercise to inform the draft standard, and people can now read the consultation document and give their views on what it includes.

Luke O’Shea, NHS England’s Head of Patient Participation, said: “Giving good information and advice is the lifeblood of the NHS. For certain groups of patients this needs to be provided in alternative formats, such as sending an email rather than offering printed advice, so it can be read by voice software.

“Many organisations already have good arrangements in place for patients with additional communication needs but the ‘Accessible Information Standard’ will bring clarity and consistency as well as improving quality.

“We know it isn’t always easy to predict patients’ needs in advance but it is in everyone’s interest to ensure patients get information they can act upon. We look forward to receiving comments from as many people as possible during this consultation to ensure we get it right.”

Organisations should already be providing information in alternative formats for patients but this is the first time a national standard has been introduced. Having the standard would bring consistency and lead to efficiencies with fewer missed appointments, misunderstandings and complaints.

There will be a list of types of communication support and information format which organisations will need to use to ensure everyone records things in the same way. The proposed list forms part of the consultation.

The guide also states organisations should ask people if they have any information or communication needs when they see them for the first time.

NHS England will be providing implementation advice to organisations as well as publishing tools templates and ‘how to’ guides online.

The draft will be considered for approval by the Standardisation Committee for Care Information (SCCI) in August and the aim is for it to be approved in spring 2015, following which it is currently proposed that organisations will have 12 months to comply, although this is also part of consultation.

A pilot scheme will be run in autumn 2014, and organisations interested should visit our Accessible Information pages for more information.

People can find out more and give their views on the consultation by visiting our Accessible Information pages.

The consultation closes on 9 November 2014.

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8 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    My hospital trust despite asking, does not offer personal training on how to use the Loop System. How can staff be expected to use this system for patients/staff, when they have not been trained in its use?

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Sir/Madame,
      We recognise the importance of ‘loop systems’ for hearing aid users, alongside other types of support for people who are d/Deaf or have some hearing loss. As part of the draft accessible information standard, NHS England has committed to providing advice and guidance to organisations to support them in following the standard effectively, and to improve their accessibility to people with communication disabilities. We would encourage you to raise your concerns with the hospital trust directly via their Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). Please also share your views as part of the consultation on the draft accessible information standard – please read the consultation document https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/access-info-std-consult-pln-txt.pdf and then complete an online survey https://www.engage.england.nhs.uk/consultation/cab3e456. Please make sure that you have your say before the consultation closes on 9th November.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  2. Anonymous says:

    I work at a hospital trust and find the organisation lacking in tackling the genuine needs of staff who are partially blind. A staff member has been waiting for 6 months for adjustments to be put in place to enable them to carry out their job.

    What safeguards and firm committments will be in place to ensure Trusts put in place adjustments? Will trusts face penalities?

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Sir/Madame,
      The scope of the accessible information standard does not currently include the needs of staff, rather it is focusing on the needs of patients and service users (and where appropriate carers and parents). With regards to ensuring effective implementation of the standard, we are currently exploring a range of options including reviewing how compliance with the standard could be included as part of existing quality assurance and monitoring processes. Both the scope of the standard and implementation are included as part of the consultation on the draft accessible information standard, and we would encourage you to have your say before the consultation closes on 9th November. Please read the consultation document https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/access-info-std-consult-pln-txt.pdf and then complete an online survey https://www.engage.england.nhs.uk/consultation/cab3e456. Please make sure that you have your say before the consultation closes on 9th November.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  3. I absolutely applaud this. Patients with sensory loss. Find it extremely difficult in hospital and healthcare settings. I find that a portable induction loop may be switched on one week and discarded the next! There is no induction loop in A&E MKGHFT “because no one has asked for one before! ”

    Disability awareness training and regular updates should be on the agenda in all healthcare settings. SHOUTING doesnt make HoH patients hear any better.

    All GP SURGERIES need to be totally accessible to disabled and sensory loss patients.

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Mrs Bloor,
      We are pleased that you are supportive of this initiative. We recognise the importance of ‘loop systems’ for hearing aid users, alongside other types of support for people who are d/Deaf or have some hearing loss. As part of the draft accessible information standard, NHS England has committed to providing advice and guidance to organisations to support them in following the standard effectively, and to improve their accessibility to people with communication disabilities. We would encourage you to raise your concerns with the hospital trust directly via their Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). Please also share your views as part of the consultation on the draft accessible information standard – please read the consultation document https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/access-info-std-consult-pln-txt.pdf and then complete an online survey https://www.engage.england.nhs.uk/consultation/cab3e456. Please make sure that you have your say before the consultation closes on 9th November.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  4. Kathleen Hill says:

    Very laudable. I am so pleased that NHS England is so keen to make sure ALL patients can understand information. Presumably, I can therefore assume, that they will not be supporting any CCG that suggest withdrawing the provision of hearing aids to people who have mild to moserate hearing loss. I respectfully suggest that anyone supporting the idea that people with such hearing loss goes to the Action on Hearing Loss website and uses the facility there to experience what such loss sounds like – especially in a situation where there is background noise. Without my hearing aids I feel extremely vulnerable in waiting rooms of any kind as I am constantly worried about missing my appointment because of the poor systems of calling for patients. I have to be extremely vigilant about facing the direction I am expecting any announcement to come from and am unable to engage in conversation or read whilst I am waiting. ANY public announcements made in ANY situation (eg waiting rooms, airports, railway stations, shops) are just an incomprehensible babble.

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Kathleen,
      We are pleased that you are supportive of this initiative. The draft accessible information standard includes within its scope the provision of alternative ways of alerting a patient that it is their turn or to go through for their appointment, as we recognise that both verbal or written announcements can be very difficult for people with communication disabilities. Please share your views as part of the consultation on the draft accessible information standard – please read the consultation document https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/access-info-std-consult-pln-txt.pdf and then complete an online survey https://www.engage.england.nhs.uk/consultation/cab3e456. Please make sure that you have your say before the consultation closes on 9th November.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England