Equal Access to Healthcare
We are two weeks into August but already a lot has happened in terms of rights to accessible healthcare. For the past three years, I have been working closely with NHS England on the development of the Accessible Information Standard – a Standard which became fully mandatory on the 31st July.
The Standard sets out what providers of Health and Social Care must do to meet the information and communication needs of those who access their services who have sensory impairments and/or a learning disability. This could involve a whole range of things; from emailing appointment letters instead of sending them in print to providing a sign language interpreter for an appointment or texting someone instead of phoning them.
Sense recently released a new report – Equal Access to Healthcare – in which we outlined the experiences that many people who are deafblind have when accessing healthcare. What really struck me was that many of the barriers that people were facing had straightforward, low cost solutions that would make a significant difference. For example, 85% of those people we asked said that they didn’t get information about their appointments in a format they could access meaning that they had to rely on others to read them for them or that they missed appointments. How would this make you feel, and what impact could that have on your health?
A key message from what people told us was that if healthcare was accessible they would be able to be independent, active participants in their own health and care. Surely this is something we all want to be. This is why I think that the Accessible Information Standard is a real game changer. In many ways it isn’t anything new – the Equality Act 2010 already set out legal duties in terms of accessibility – but it clearly specifies what providers need to do and how they need to meet the needs of people who access their services.
For the Standard to reach its potential we need people who have information or communication needs to share them with their health and social care provider so that the needs can be met – let’s get the word out there, who could you tell? A friend or family member? A local community group? A neighbour? Let’s all take on the challenge to spread the word about the Standard and ensure that healthcare becomes accessible for all.
For more information on the Standard – what it is, who it applies to and what it means, including useful resources, visit the Sense website.
Sarah is the Health Policy and Partnerships Manager (Health) at Sense, where she has worked for the past three years. Her role is to ensure that health and care services take into account the needs of people who are deafblind and those with complex needs. A key focus of her work in the past few years has been the Accessible Information Standard and she sits on the Advisory Group for the Standard. Sarah is also the Strategic Lead for The Disability Partnership (comprising Sense, The National Autistic Society, Scope and Mencap) who are fellow members of the Voluntary Sector Health and Care Strategic Partnership, with FaithAction. Prior to working for Sense, Sarah was an Audiologist in the NHS with a special interest in supporting those with learning disabilities, complex needs and dementia.