The Accessible Information Standard has been published today. It’s a set of new rules for the NHS and other providers, which could be the biggest ever improvement to healthcare for Deaf people.
The standard is aimed at organisations such as doctors surgeries, hospitals and those providing adult social care.
It tells them that they must communicate with disabled patients and those with sensory impairments in a way that they can read and understand, for instance in British Sign Language (BSL).
The standard says that providers MUST do these 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.
• Provide information in a way that the patient can access and understand, and give communication support if they need it.
SignHealth has played a leading role with the NHS and the UK Council on Deafness to ensure the new standard benefits the Deaf community. We called for information to be made widely available in BSL and also reinforced the importance of providing communication support should a Deaf person want it. That may be through an interpreter, lip speaker or note taker.
Prescriptions for Change said that Deaf patients should be asked how they like to communicate and that this should be noted by health professionals. We also said a simple system should be set up for booking interpreters and that all staff should know how to use it.