Charity is calling on NHS and social care services to take action after a review published found that, almost a year since the Accessible Information Standard became law, more than half of patients who responded to NHS England’s survey have not noticed any improvement
The Standard, which was put into force on August 1 2016, requires all publicly funded health and adult social care organisations to meet the communication needs of people with a disability, impairment or sensory loss, including the one in six people living with hearing loss and deafness.
The charity, which submitted evidence to the review, is calling on NHS England to ensure that adult health and social care organisations have consistent policies in place to ensure people who are deaf or have hearing loss are having their communication needs recorded and met.
The review found that only a quarter of health and social professionals who responded to NHS England’s survey said they had implemented the Standard completely and almost half had not heard of the Standard at all.
The release of the review comes before the Care Quality Commission (CQC) incorporates adherence to the Accessible Information Standard into its inspection criteria, which is due to come into effect in October.
Dr. Roger Wicks, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “The Accessible Information Standard was an important milestone – for the first time, health and social care organisations have been required by law to record and meet the communication needs of people with hearing loss. It is clear, however, that more work is needed to ensure it is consistently implemented and enforced.
“While it is pleasing to see that the vast majority of health and social care professionals surveyed reported that they had made progress towards implementing the Standard, we hope that its incorporation into the CQC’s inspection criteria will encourage all health and social services to improve the way they communicate with people who are deaf or have hearing loss. People who are deaf or have hearing loss have long been denied the fundamental right to have equal access to the full benefits of our healthcare system and we believe that the Standard, properly implemented, will have a great impact.”
One patient with hearing loss who responded to the survey said, “I am unable to use the phone and my GP and NHS hospital services are unable to communicate with [me] in any other way, SMS, live chat, email, etc. so booking appointments, getting test results, and getting advice from a GP on the phone is impossible. [It is] the same with the NHS 111 service.”
Another patient, who is deaf, said, “In the last six months the service has improved with more communication support at the hospital, they always ask if we need British Sign Language support, and I always say yes.”
The charity worked with NHS England on the development of the Standard to address the fact that prior to its implementation, more than a quarter of patients with hearing loss did not understand their diagnosis after visiting their GP and two in three British Sign Language (BSL) users did not get an interpreter.
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Notes to Editors