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All NHS bodies must enact communication plan, NHS England announces

6 July 2015

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All NHS organisations must meet the communication needs of people with a disability, impairment or sensory loss by 31 July 2016, NHS England announced.

General practice managers must make sure patients with a disability, impairment or sensory loss get information in suitable formats and that, if needed, support from British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters is guaranteed.

Currently more than a quarter (28%) of patients with a hearing loss did not understand their diagnosis after visiting a GP, and two in three BSL users did not get an interpreter, even if they had requested one, an Action on Hearing Loss survey revealed.

Roger Wicks, Action on Hearing Loss’s director of policy and campaigns, said: “It is vital that everybody understands the information and advice they receive from their GP or hospital.

“The Accessible Information Standard is the first time the NHS has provided clear guidance on what people with hearing loss and deafness should expect from health and social care services, and what staff should provide,” he said.

He also suggested that if it is properly implemented the Standard will enable more patients to manage their own health and participate fully in decisions about their treatment.

“While it can’t be denied that these adjustments will come at a cost, it’s now time for providers to acknowledge hearing loss for the serious health issue that it is, and to reap the benefits of enabling proper access,” Wicks said.