Accessible Information Standard

People in England with complex communication needs, as well as parents and carers, now have the right 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 a person’s file in a way that’s clear and consistent.

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

  • To be contacted in a certain way (e.g. via email instead of on the phone)
  • To receive information in a different format (e.g. large print)
  • Communication support for appointments (e.g. a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter or communicator guide)
  • 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 a person’s communication and information needs clearly and consistently on record, recording their needs not why they have those needs, for example ‘requires a BSL interpreter’ not ‘person is deaf’.
  3. Have a consistent flagging system so that it is immediately clear whether the person has a communication or information need.
  4. Share a person’s information and communication needs where appropriate. For example, a GP referring a patient to a hospital including that a deafblind manual interpreter is needed in the referral letter so that the hospital can arrange it.
  5. Meet the communication and information needs identified. For example, send an appointment letter in braille or book an interpreter for an appointment. 

Who benefits from the 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 have complex communication needs 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?

All providers of NHS and publicly funded social care must follow the Accessible Information Standard. This includes hospitals, GPs, social care services and pharmacies.

The Care Quality Commission has committed to look at how well services meet the Standard through inspections.

What do I need to do?

If you have information or communication needs:

  • Tell your health or social care provider about your needs at your next meeting or appointment, and ask for them to be recorded in compliance with the Standard. We have produced a Word template that 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:

  • You need to implement the Standard. Visit the NHS England website for more details on what you need to do to meet your obligations.

Sense’s involvement in the Standard

Sense was heavily involved in the development of the Standard, working in partnership with NHS England, RNIB, Action on Hearing Loss, CHANGE and other partners. Over the course of three years we supported people with complex communication needs and their families to share their experiences of accessing health and social care, and provided opportunities for them to shape the Standard as it developed.

More information

The British Medical Association has published a list of frequently asked questions about the Standard.

NHS England has published a number of useful resources, including e-learning, checklists and guidance.

Resources

Communication cards

To record details about information and communication needs. 

Glossary

Outlining some of the different information formats and communication types listed in the Accessible Information Standard. 

Equal access to healthcare report

Outlining the importance of accessible healthcare services for people with complex communication needs