Equal Access to Healthcare

01/08/2016 11:27 | Updated 01 August 2016

Today, Sense publishes a new report highlighting the health inequalities and barriers facing deafblind people accessing healthcare. It comes ahead of the implementation of the Accessible Information Standard on July 31st, and stresses the urgent need for all health and social care providers to deliver a more accessible service for patients with sensory loss.

There are estimated to be over 358,000 people in the UK with a sight and hearing impairment. They have some of the greatest health needs in society, with 69 per cent reporting two or more additional long-term health conditions, and 70 per cent requiring ongoing support from a GP or healthcare professional. This underlines the need for all healthcare services to be accessible to people who are deafblind, but to date this need is unmet.

No one should leave a doctor's appointment without understanding what has been discussed or be left with a prescription they are unable to read, yet this is a regular occurrence for many of the deafblind people we support. Our research shows that one in two (56 per cent) deafblind people have left a GP appointment having not understood what had been discussed. More than three quarters (85 per cent) of deafblind people don't get information about their healthcare appointments or follow up correspondence in a format that they can access. Most reported that they needed to rely on someone else to read their letters for them so that they could know what was contained in them.

The Accessible Information Standard marks a once in generation opportunity to address these issues and change the culture and practice of health and social care provision across the country. It sets out what health and social care providers must do to meet the information and communication needs of those who access their services.

There are 5 key steps that providers must take:

  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.
  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.
  5. Meet the communication and information needs identified. For example, send an appointment letter in Braille or book an interpreter for an appointment.

The changes outlined in the new Standard are often small and inexpensive adjustments, but can make a world of difference for a deafblind person visiting their local GP or seeking social care support.

We are calling on providers to implement the Standard across the board and ensure that everyone's information and communication needs are met in order to ensure they are able to be active participants in decisions about them.

Sense are working to inform the people we support of the level of service they should expect to receive moving forward, and will continue our work with NHS England and health and social care providers to ensure a fully accessible healthcare system is delivered.

For information on our report please visit: