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New drive to make GP information more accessible

NHS England consults on ‘accessible information standard’

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Information provided by GPs and hospitals will have to conform to a new “accessible information standard” to allow easier access for patients.

NHS England has today launched a consultation on its proposed accessible information standard which is designed to ensure GPs, hospitals, and all NHS and adult social services providers give people information in the best format for their needs.

This will mean patients would get better access to information formats such as large print, Braille, easy read, e-mail and British sign language interpreters.

All organisations including GP practices 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.

Over last winter 1,200 people shared their experiences and opinions in an engagement exercise to inform the draft version of the guide that people can now give their views on for the consultation.

NHS England said organisations should already be providing information in alternative formats for patients but this is the first time a national standard has been introduced.

It is hoped it will bring consistency and lead to fewer missed appointments, misunderstandings and complaints.

There will be a list of types of communication support and information format that organisations will need to use to ensure everyone records things in the same way.

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

GPs and hospitals will be provided with implementation advice and publishing tools templates as well as “how to” guides online by NHS England.

It is hoped the draft guide will be approved in spring of next year and that organisations will have 12 months to comply. A pilot scheme will be run this autumn.

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.”

The consultation closes on 6 November.

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