It's been nearly three years since NHS services have legally been required to make sure that people who have a disability, impairment or sensory loss get information in a way they can easily access.
However, people continue to experience problems accessing support from the 7,400 GP practices that operate in England.
Here's how one local Healthwatch helped improve access in their community.
Over four months, Healthwatch Redbridge assessed 46 GP practices in the area on how well they were meeting the requirements set out by the Accessible Information Standard.
They found some practices were not meeting people’s communication needs. For example, only three websites were accessible to those with a sensory impairment, and more than half of the practices relied on family and carers to help communicate with patients.
Much needed advice
Healthwatch Redbridge made a number of recommendations to the GP practices so that visiting the doctor can be made easier. These include:
- Up-to-date complaints information should be in accessible formats which is easy to find and understand. Frontline staff should also be trained in complaints handling
- Website settings should conform to accessibility standards
- Posters, leaflets and website information should be simple to understand and be accessible for disabled people
Most practices now have improved hearing loop systems, ramp access, signage and staff training. Nearly half are now working to make their website more accessible, and have changed handbooks and registration forms to better accommodate communication needs
Five things NHS services must do according to the Accessible Information Standard
- 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 to meet those needs
- 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