Practices could be asked to improve access to information formats such as ‘easy read’, braille and British Sign Language interpreters.
All organisations would need to find out if a patient has extra communication needs because of disability of sensory loss, then take steps to meet the needs, NHS England proposals suggest.
The new consultation, launched this week, would apply to GP surgeries, hospitals, and all NHS and adult social services providers.
Luke O’Shea, NHS England’s head of patient participation said that many organisations already have good arrangements in place but the ‘Accessible Information Standard’ will improve quality by reducing inconsistencies and reducing missed appointments, misunderstandings and complaints.
He said: “Giving good information and advice is the lifeblood of the NHS. For certain groups of patients this needs to be provided in different formats, such as sending an email rather than offering printed advice, so it can be read by voice software.
“We know it isn’t always easy to predict patients’ needs in advance but it is in everyone’s interest to ensure patients get information they can act upon. We look forward to receiving comments from as many people as possible during this consultation to ensure we get it right.”
NHS England is to provide a list of types of communication support and information format which organisations will need to use to ensure everyone records things in the same way. The proposed list forms part of the consultation.
The guide also states organisations should ask people if they have any information or communication needs when they see them for the first time.
NHS England will be providing implementation advice to organisations as well as publishing tools templates and ‘how to’ guides online.
The draft will be considered for approval by the Standardisation Committee for Care Information (SCCI) in August and the aim is for it to be approved in spring 2015, following which it is currently proposed that organisations will have 12 months to comply, although this is also part of consultation.