Quality and accessible health information

quality of lifeNHS England’s Accessible Information Standard

NHS England’s Accessible Information Standard aims to make sure that people with a disability, impairment or sensory loss have access to health and social care information in formats they can understand and receive appropriate support to help them to communicate.

All organisations that provide NHS or adult social care, including those who are commissioned to do so such as Charities and private sector bodies, must follow the Accessible Information Standard, by law, in full from 31st July 2016. They must:

  1. Ask people if they have any information or communication needs, and find out how to meet their needs.
  2. Record those needs in a set way.
  3. Highlight a person’s file, so it is clear that they have information or communication needs, and clearly explain how those needs should be met.
  4. Share information about a person’s needs with other NHS and adult social care providers, when they have consent or permission to do so.
  5. Make sure that people get information in an accessible way (eg in large print, braille, easy read and via email if needed) and any communication support they need (support from a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, deafblind manual interpreter or an advocate).

There are a number of areas that fall outside the scope of this Standard, such as expected standards for websites and accessibility.

The All Wales Standards for communication and information for people with sensory loss

The All Wales Standards for communication and information for people with sensory loss set out the standards of service delivery that people with sensory loss should expect when they access healthcare to ensure that their communication and information needs are met. The standards apply to adults, young people and children.

Rights of access to health and social care in Northern Ireland

Disabled people share the same general rights of access to health and social care as other people, but there are some special provisions under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

The DDA means that people in Northern Ireland have a right to information about healthcare and social services in a format that is accessible to them where it is reasonable for the service provider to provide it in that format. For example, a hospital may provide forms and explanatory literature in large print or Braille to assist people with visual impairments, or arrange for an interpreter for someone with a hearing impairment.

Accessible Information in Scotland

Examples of organisations in Scotland who provide guidance on accessible information follow:

  • The Scottish Accessible Information Forum (SAIF) works to promote social inclusion by representing the interests of people living with information needs across Scotland and supporting the rights of disabled people and carers in having access to timely and accurate information. SAIF can help organisations make information accessible to all by raising awareness and understanding of accessible information and providing information and support.
  • NHS Health Scotland has an Accessible Information Policy with associate guidance.

Easy Read Health Wales

Produced by Learning Disability Wales, Easy Read Health Wales is a website which provides people with disabilities and their families Easy Read information on a wide variety of topics on health and wellbeing. The team is developing an evaluation tool to check the quality and readability of the information.

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

WAI brings together people from industry, disability organisations, government and research labs from around the world to develop guidelines and resources to help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities including auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech and visual disabilities.

Examples of organisations promoting digital inclusion

  • The Tinder Foundation – focuses on digital inclusion, community learning and tackling social challenges through digital solutions
  • Abilitynet – changing the lives of disabled people by helping them to use digital technology at work, at home or in education
  • Go on UK – committed to eradicating digital exclusion and ensuring that everyone has the motivation and skills needed to benefit and prosper from the internet
  • The ‘Accessibility Statement’ on NHS Choices also has relevant guidance

Improving health literacy

The World Health Organization has defined health literacy as ‘the personal characteristics and social resources needed for individuals and communities to access, understand, appraise and use information and services to make decisions about health.’

Health literacy is about people having enough knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to use health information, to be active partners in their care, and to navigate health and social care systems. Health Literacy is being increasingly recognised as a significant public health concern around the world.

Some useful resources:

  • The health literacy place – includes tools and techniques to support your health literacy practice, a range of training and education opportunities and resources, an overview of the research evidence base underpinning health literacy interventions, and a resource library.
  • Improving health literacy to improve health inequalities (2015, UCL Institute of Health Equity and Public Health England) – looks at evidence and case studies on improving health literacy and health outcomes.
  • Healthliteracyonline: A Guide to Simplifying the User Experience – provides guidance on broadening access to user-friendly health information and services on the web. This guide discusses why and how to design health websites and other digital health information tools for all users, including people who don’t have strong reading or health literacy skills, as well as those who don’t have a lot of time to find, process, and use complex health information.
  • Quick Guide to Health Literacy – includes a basic overview of key health literacy concepts, techniques for improving health literacy through communication, navigation, knowledge-building and advocacy, examples of health literacy best practices and suggestions for addressing health literacy in your organisation.
  • Health-literacy: the-solid-facts – with evidence from a European health literacy survey, this report from the World Health Organization Europe identifies practical and effective ways to strengthen health literacy in a variety of settings, including educational settings, workplaces, marketplaces, health systems, new and traditional media and political arenas.

Health information in languages other than English

It is important to ensure health information is accessible to people who do not have English as their first language.

Return to the main ‘Judging and assuring the quality of health information‘ page.