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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.