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“Bad access doesn’t just affect deaf people physically, it affects our mental health too. I want to be given more options and information so I have a clear understanding of my health.”

– Spiros, Deaf patient

What you need to know

The standard is a legal requirement that ensures:

  1. Deaf people have the same level of access to information about their health as hearing people do
  2. Deaf people receive the communication support they want (for example an interpreter or speech-to-text reporter)
  3. Information is provided in an accessible format. That may mean test results sent by SMS or emails in plain English.

More information for health professionals

Background to the Accessible Information Standard

Since the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Equality Act 2010, the NHS should have been making ‘reasonable adjustments’ for deaf patients. However, it has always been unclear what might be considered ‘reasonable’.

NHS England sought to address this ambiguity by creating the Accessible Information Standard. Although it is not an Act of law, it is legally enforceable and all NHS and adult social care services in England are under a legal duty to comply with its requirements. It covers inpatient and outpatient services, as well as long-term care in nursing and care homes. The rules also help deaf people who may be parents or carers.

It also applies to private healthcare providers that are partially funded by the NHS. It does not apply to healthcare providers that are fully private, however such services must still abide by the Equality Act 2010. 

Summary

The Standard tells health professionals what they must do to improve communication and accessibility for people with a disability or sensory loss. It refers to the communication needs of both patients and staff and its objective is to ensure that:

  • Deaf people have the same level of access to information about their health as hearing people do.
  • Deaf people receive the communication support they require 
  • Information is provided in an accessible format. 

There are five main parts to the Accessible Information Standard:

  1. Ask: Staff must ask patients whether they have a communication need and how that need can be met. This should cover different situations where information is exchanged. In particular services should ask how the patient wants to communicate during a consultation, how they want to make contact with the service and how they want the service to provide information to them.
  2. Record: A patient’s needs should be clearly recorded in the patient record using coding that is consistent and understood by all. Suitable codes are now available in most electronic systems.
  3. Alert/Flag: An alert or flag should be used on a patient’s file so that all staff accessing the file are aware of their communication needs. Ideally, the alert will also give practical details as to how staff can meet those needs.
  4. Share: Information about communication needs should be shared with other health and social care services. For instance, referrals should include details of communication needs.
  5. Act/Meet:  Services need to ensure information is accessible and that people get the communication support they need. Services may need to be prepared to interact with patients via text and email as well as face to face, and / or they may need to book a BSL interpreter for consultations.

More information for health and social care professionals is available from NHS England.

How healthy are Deaf people?

Sick Of It is SignHealth’s ground-breaking report uncovering the health disparity Deaf people face in the UK. Published in 2014, the report has influenced policy and changed practices in the NHS to improve communication and reduce barriers.

Report: Sick Of It