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NHS: Sight Impaired

Volume 506: debated on Thursday 4 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what guidance his Department has issued to NHS providers on communication with visually-impaired patients in accessible formats; what systems are in place to monitor the provision of such materials; and if he will make a statement; (319058)

(2) what estimate he has made of the proportion of visually-impaired patients who received communications from NHS providers in accessible formats in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement;

(3) what proportion of (a) hospitals and (b) GP surgeries have used (i) Braille, (ii) large print and (iii) audio to communicate with visually-impaired patients in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of provision of information in hospitals for blind, partially sighted and print-disabled people. (318895)

Information on the proportion of national health service providers that have provided Braille, large print, audio or other accessible communications to patients in general practice (GP) surgeries or hospitals in each of the last five years is not collected centrally.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 confers a duty on NHS providers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, including making information accessible to people with visual impairments. The NHS Constitution also commits the NHS to offer patients accessible information to enable them to participate fully in their health care decisions.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 each NHS organisation is required to develop a Disability Equality Scheme, based on real engagement with local people, including those who are blind or partially sighted. They are required to implement the action plans set out in their schemes; and report annually on their progress, the results of their information gathering and how this information has been used.

Listed Government Departments, including the Department, must publish a report setting out an overview of progress on disability equality as well as proposals for co-ordinated action between authorities in the sector to progress disability equality. The Department’s first report, which was published in December 2008, acknowledges that patients who are blind or have severe visual impairments report significantly lower levels of satisfaction when making choices following a referral for hospital treatment. The introduction of data broken down by impairment in national GP access and choice surveys will allow NHS organisations in addressing such differences in satisfaction levels.

To support service improvements, the Department has also co-produced “Improving Access, Responding to Patients: a ‘how to’ guide for GP practices” in 2009. This guide brings together good practice case studies with step-by-step guides and top tips, developed and disseminated by national stakeholders. It has been distributed to every GP practice, primary care trust and strategic health authority in England and a copy has already been placed in the Library.