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Accessible Information Standard comes into force

People with disabilities will benefit from improved health and care after new requirements come into force, ensuring they receive easily accessible information and support.

The Accessible Information Standard is a new framework that aims to ensure that people who have a disability, impairment or sensory loss are provided with information that they can easily read or understand with support so they can communicate effectively with services. Examples of the types of support that might be required include large print, braille or using a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter.

All organisations that provide NHS care or adult social care are required to follow the new standard, including NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts, and GP practices. As part of the accessible information standard, these organisations must do five things:
* Ask people if they have any information or communication needs, and find out how to meet their needs.
* Record those needs clearly and in a set way.
* Highlight or ‘flag’ the person’s file or notes so it is clear that they have information or communication needs and how those needs should be met.
* Share information about people’s information and communication needs with other providers of NHS and adult social care, when they have consent or permission to do so.
* Take steps to ensure that people receive information which they can access and understand, and receive communication support if they need it.

The Accessible Information Standard took more than two years to develop and was overseen by NHS England, working in partnership with the Health and Social Care Information Centre and with a range of charities including the RNIB, Action on Hearing Loss, Sense, CHANGE and independent patient representatives. The standard was published in July 2015, meaning that organisations then had a year to get everything in place to be able to meet the requirements of the Standard by 31st July 2016.

Anu Singh, Director of Patient and Public Participation at NHS England, says: “Good quality, accessible health and care information is essential, particularly for patients with the greatest needs. We must strive for equality across the health service and this new framework will help patients with disabilities receive improved standards of care and be more involved in how that care is delivered.”

The introduction has been welcomed by the charity, Action on Hearing Loss. The charity’s Access All Areas research found that most people with hearing loss surveyed were forced to struggle with the phone or go in person to book appointments for lack of other options such as online booking. One in seven had missed an appointment because they hadn’t heard their name called out in the waiting room.  Furthermore, more than a quarter had said they didn’t understand their diagnosis after seeing their GP, and two thirds of those needing a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter didn't get one.

NHS England estimates that missed appointments for people with all levels of hearing loss costs the NHS at least £14 million every year.
Paul Breckell, Chief Executive at Action on Hearing Loss, says: “This is a welcome step forward for people who are deaf or have a hearing loss. We hope that health and social care professionals will see that far from being a box-ticking exercise, this is a real opportunity to provide better care and better outcomes for patients who have previously faced barriers when accessing health and social care.”