A new report by charity Action on Hearing Loss entitled Good Practice? has found that people with deafness and hearing loss still don’t enjoy equality of access to healthcare.
Despite the Accessible Information Standard having come into effect in August 2016, which legally requires all providers of NHS care and publicly funded adult social care to record and meet the communication needs of people with disabilities and sensory loss, the report has found that many GP surgeries are still falling short. The report found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of people who are deaf or have hearing loss still feel unclear about their health advice after their GP appointment, at least some of the time.
A key area of concern for patients with deafness and hearing loss was booking urgent same-day appointments, with more than one-third of survey respondents having experienced difficulties. Of these, one in five (19%) survey respondents said they had experienced difficulties because they were offered a same-day phone appointment by their GP surgery, even though they cannot use the phone.
Roger Wicks, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “These findings show that in many GP surgeries, the requirements of the Accessible Information Standard are not routinely being met. Importantly, the Standard requires that ‘one or more communication or contact methods which are accessible and useable by the patient’ – and our survey in fact found that almost a third of our respondents had had to ask a family member, friend or carer to call their GP surgery or NHS service for them.
“It’s not acceptable that people with deafness and hearing loss are in some cases still being denied the personal autonomy over their health and wellbeing that many of us take for granted. The Accessible Information Standard has represented a huge step forward and has put the communication needs of people with invisible conditions like deafness and hearing loss on the agenda, but its clear more needs to be done to ensure that there is no postcode lottery in terms of accessibility.
“We must remember that the NHS was founded on the principle of free high-quality health care for all, this report shows that 70 years on people who are deaf or have hearing loss still don’t enjoy equal access to health care.
“We urge GP surgeries, NHS England, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to work together to ensure the requirements of the Standard are properly implemented and enforced”
The report also found that just one in ten respondents had been asked if they needed support contacting GP services, despite the Standard requiring that all patients be asked, and 45% said staff at their GP surgery let them know it was their turn to be seen verbally rather than via a visual display screen. NHS England estimates that the cost of people with hearing loss missing appointments –because they didn’t hear their name being called in the waiting room – could be as high as £15m every year.
To read the full report, please visit: www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/goodpractice
To find out more about the Accessible Information Standard, please visit: https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/how-we-help/health-and-social-care-professionals/standards-for-accessible-information-and-communication/accessible-information-standard/
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