Accessible Information Standard

A long-awaited information standard was launched on July 3 by NHS England that will improve healthcare for millions of people has been welcomed by Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID).

The standard requires all NHS and adult social care organisations to meet the communication needs of people with a disability, impairment or sensory loss by 31st July 2016, including the one in six people living with a hearing loss. It will include making sure patients get information in suitable formats and that, if needed, support from British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters is guaranteed.

A survey of over 600 people with different levels of hearing loss to explore the experiences they have when accessing healthcare found:

  • One in seven respondents (14%) had missed an appointment because they had missed being called in the waiting room.
  • more than one-quarter (28%) of people with hearing loss had been left unclear about their condition because of communication problems with their GP or nurse
  • 68% of profoundly deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users asked for a sign language interpreter for a GP appointment but did not get one. 41% of BSL users left a health appointment feeling confused about their medical condition because they couldn’t understand the interpreter.
  • One in seven missed an appointment – the NHS estimates this costs £14 million in England every year due to missed appointments.

Roger Wicks, Action on Hearing Loss’s Director of Policy and Campaigns, said:

“It is vital that everybody understands the information and advice they receive from their GP or hospital. The Accessible Information Standard is the first time the NHS has provided clear guidance on what people with hearing loss and deafness should expect from health and social care services, and what staff should provide. So long as it’s properly implemented, it will enable patients to access services, to understand information they are given, to manage their own health and to participate fully in decisions about their treatment – things that many of us take for granted. While it can’t be denied that these adjustments will come at a cost, it’s now time for providers to acknowledge hearing loss for the serious health issue that it is, and to reap the benefits of enabling proper access.”