Barry Price, QCS Specialist on why the sector needs to do more to adhere to the Accessible Information Standard.
The results of the Healthwatch accessible information survey released last month, show clearly that health and social care still has a lot of work to do.
As someone who accesses health and social care more than most, I regularly find myself asking for more information on medication, and more importantly, diagnosis to be in a simpler language for me to understand what is being said. Moreover, because family and friends know the kind of work I do, I sometimes receive distressing calls asking me to explain letters and untangle individuals’ understanding of something they have been told in clinic where they did not want to look stupid asking for clarity or have the confidence to ask.
Not just a leaflet
I see first-hand the sometimes dramatic effect that, not only the lack of information being provided, but the type of information including language and complexity can have on an individual’s stress, anxiety and ultimately the health and social care journey.
It is not just about providing the information either. It is also about giving time to read, absorb, understand and seek further clarity – again such a huge part of the accessible information journey. Providing a leaflet does not always mean mission accomplished.
Signposting to additional support in my experience can be particularly good in certain clinic and service settings. Once contact has been made, information becomes easier to understand with additional support as can be seen with Macmillan, Marie Curie and Alzheimer’s Society who have all excelled in easy read information and resources.
The survey says…
But what about disabled people and people with sensory loss? According to the Healthwatch Survey findings:
- One in five (20%) said they struggle to understand most of the information given by services
- Two in ten (22%) had been refused information in a format they need
- Nearly half (48%) feel uncomfortable asking for accessible information
As health and social care professionals, we should take this report as an opportunity to reflect on how we provide information to those we support.
If we understand the communication needs of those individuals we support, then nobody should struggle to understand the information given to them. Individuals should never be refused information around care and support as it should be provided at the point where the information is delivered. Individuals should never be placed in a position where they feel uncomfortable asking for information. So, what can providers do?
Make sure you evidence the following:
Look at your process and ensure that, at the very least, your care and support planning reflects the right standards, and you can evidence the following:
- You have asked if the individual has identified any communication needs
- You have recorded those needs in a clear and standardised way
- You have alerted and flagged these needs in a prominent way so that everyone involved is aware of them
- You have shared the information with those who need to be aware and comply with UK GDPR and data protection laws
- You can demonstrate that you have acted upon the information gathered and put measures in place to support and meet the individual’s communication needs
There are more resources available on Accessible Information Standard the system. Start a free trial
now at https://www.qcs.co.uk/free-trial/
RNIB produces a list of downloadable resources in digital accessibility, audio description and other helpful websites here
RNID also provides information and resources you may find useful here
Mencap also provide information and support here
You can also find the full Healthwatch Accessible Information Survey Findings Report here
QCS has produced an Accessible Information Flag that is available to download for free to assist you in demonstrating your compliance with the Accessible Information Standard