Accessible Information Standard (England)

In England, people with a sensory impairment and/or learning disability, as well as parents and carers, now have new rights to accessible information and communication support when using health and social care services.

The Accessible Information Standard says that all publicly funded adult social care and health providers – including GPs, hospitals, and care provided by social care services – must identify and meet the information and communication needs of those who use their services.

They also need to keep a record of these needs on someone’s file in a way that’s clear and consistent.

Under the Accessible Information Standard individuals can specify if they need:

  • To be contacted in a certain way (e.g. via email instead of the phone)
  • To receive information in a different format (e.g  large print)
  • Communication support for appointments (e.g. a BSL interpreter or communicator-guide)
  • If they use additional support to communicate (e.g. hearing aids or lipreading).

How does the Standard work?

There are five steps that providers need to take to implement the standard:

  1. Identify the communication and information needs of those who use their service
  2. Record the communication and information needs they have identified: clearly and consistently on the individual's record, recording their needs not why they have those needs i.e. "requires BSL interpreter" not "person is d/Deaf".
  3. Have a consistent flagging system so that if a member of staff opens the individual's record it is immediately brought to their attention if the person has a communication or information need.
  4. Share the identified information and communication needs of the individual when appropriate; for example a GP referring a patient to the hospital including the information that the person needs a deafblind manual interpreter in the referral letter so that the hospital can arrange it for the upcoming appointment.
  5. Meet the communication and information needs identified.  For example, send an appointment letter in Braille or book an interpreter for an appointment. 

Who will benefit from this Standard?

"The scope of the standard extends to individuals (patients and service users, and where appropriate the parents and carers of patients and service users) who have information and / or communication support needs which are related to or caused by a disability, impairment or sensory loss."

This means that if you are deafblind or have a dual sensory loss and need information such as appointment letters in a format other than standard print, or an interpreter for a health or social care appointment, this must be provided for you.

The Standard doesn't cover those who need information translated because English isn't their first language, or other aspects of accessibility in care such as signage or hospital transport.

Who needs to follow the Standard?

The Standard must be carried out by all providers of NHS and publicly funded social care.  This will include hospitals, GPs, social care services, pharmacies and others.

The Care Quality Commission have committed to look at how well services are meeting the Standard when they inspect services.

What do I need to do?

If you have information or communication needs:

  • At your next contact with a health or social care provider highlight your needs and ask for them to be recorded in compliance with the Standard.  We have produced a text only template (Word) which you can edit and send to your provider or use as a guide.
  • If the service requires more information on their obligations direct them to the NHS England website.

If you provide a health and social care service:

More information

Resources

  • Communication Card: to aid collection of information and communication needs, we have produced a communication card for providers to print and have available in their services.  This is available as a print ready pdf or as an editable version for services to add their own logo prior to printing.  A text only version is also available. (Please note, this is not intended to be a standalone method for data collection but instead to be used in conjunction with multiple ways for individuals to share their information and communication needs in ways that are accessible to them).
  • Glossary: we have a produced a glossary outlining some of the different information formats and communication types listed in the Standard.  This is available in an accessible text version and as a pdf glossary. Also included in this glossary are a number of case studies explaining how needs can be met through the Standard.
  • NHS England has published a number of resources including e-learning, checklists and guidance which are available here.
  • Webinar: we have created a webinar outlining the duties of health and social care providers under the standard; watch the webinar here
  • Template policies: We have drafted some example Accessible Information Standard policies which you may want to use to support the development of your own plans and implementation policies.  There are three; one for Clinical Commissioning Groups, one for Local Authorities and one for GP practices.

For more information contact the Sense Information and Advice Team:

By phone: 0300 330 9256 or 020 7520 0972
By textphone: 0300 330 9256 or 020 7520 0972
By email: info@sense.org.uk
By fax: 0300 330 9251
Write to us at: Sense, 101 Pentonville Road, London N1 9LG

Click on this link to contact us through a sign language interpreter or click on the image below.

Contact us through a sign language interpreter here

First published: Tuesday 7 October 2014
Updated: Thursday 22 June 2017