A long-awaited information standard launched last week by NHS England that will improve healthcare for millions of people has been welcomed by the UK’s largest hearing loss charity, Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID).
The standard requires all NHS and adult social care organisations to meet the communication needs of people with a disability, impairment or sensory loss by 31st July 2016, including the one in six people living with a hearing loss. It will include making sure patients get information in suitable formats and that, if needed, support from British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters is guaranteed.
Research conducted by the charity found that more than a quarter (28%) of patients with a hearing loss did not understand their diagnosis after visiting the GP, and that two in three BSL users did not get an interpreter, even if they had requested one.
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. So long as it’s properly implemented, it will enable patients to access services, to understand information they are given, to manage their own health and to participate fully in decisions about their treatment – things that many of us take for granted. 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.”
The charity played a key role in the development of the standard, sitting on the advisory group for over two years alongside CHANGE, Sense, and the Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB).