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  • Writer's pictureHealthwatch Reading

An open letter to NHS England to improve the Accessible Information Standard

Our national body Healthwatch England has written a letter to NHS England to express disappointment at the lack of progress in reviewing the legally-binding Accessible Information Standard.

Last year, together with a coalition of the UK’s leading charities, Healthwatch England launched the Your Care, Your Way campaign to highlight that everyone should receive healthcare in a format they can understand.

We shared experiences from more than 7,000 people who struggled to access healthcare because they didn’t get information they can understand and communications support if they need it.

Our Freedom of Information request to NHS trusts concluded that many health services fail to comply with the legally-binding Accessible Information Standard (AIS), which the NHS established to protect people’s rights to accessible healthcare.

Healthwatch called on NHS England to improve the AIS to make sure everyone, especially people who have sensory impairments and learning disabilities, gets healthcare information in the way they need it.

NHS England has undertaken a review of the AIS and welcomed the recommendations patients and services had said would help to ensure that more people get accessible health and care information.

Yet, it’s now a year later, and Healthwatch still don’t know when the review will be published or how the NHS will implement changes to improve the AIS.

In the meantime, people continue to tell us that they experience barriers to accessing health and social care because they do not receive information in the format they need.

If people cannot get their legal right to accessible healthcare information, getting an appointment, using services and making decisions about their care can be challenging. It also leaves people frustrated and reliant on others and can affect their mental health.

That’s why we’ve written publicly to NHS England, calling on them to publish the review of the AIS and clarify how they will take forward its recommendations.

Read the letter to Dr Neil Churchill, Director for Experience, Participation and Equalities at NHS England signed by Healthwatch England and eight other members of the Your Care, Your Way campaign here.

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