NHS England's accessible information standard is here! To help you receive information about your health in a format you can read, we've put together some frequently asked questions.

Q: What is the Accessible Information Standard?

A: The Accessible Information Standard (known by GPs and health professionals as SCCI 1605) brought in by NHS England means that all health and adult social care providers in England are now legally required to provide medical information in a format that blind and partially sighted people can access.

Q: What does this mean for blind and partially sighted people?

A: The standard means that blind and partially sighted people can request to, and should receive their health information in their preferred format, whether audio, large print, braille or email.

Q: What does the Accessible Information Standard cover?

A: The standard covers appointment letters, leaflets, letters regarding treatment and conditions as well as the dispensing labels on prescriptions. Information relating to any social care provision you might receive from your local council is also covered under the standard so letters about this should be in your preferred format too.

Q: What do I have to do to get my preferred format from my GP or hospital clinic?

A: GP surgeries and hospitals are supposed to be being proactive in getting in touch with their patients to get information from them about their communication preferences, but some haven’t yet got round to everyone in their area. To make it easier, we’ve designed a template letter which you can fill in and take or send to your GP Surgery or hospital clinic informing them of your needs. Download the template here or call our helpline on 0303 123 9999 for more information and to receive a hardcopy of the template.

Q: How much will this cost me?

A: Nothing! The service is part of what you can expect from your hospital clinic or GP practice from now on. The cost of sending out letters and information in alternative formats comes from their budgets for communicating with their patients. It’s thought that the cost of missed appointments and unnecessary visits to the GP because of communication errors will be reduced by this standard. Blind and partially sighted people will now be able to better manage their health conditions and have the same level of privacy when it comes to their heath that sighted people take for granted.

Q: I attend several clinics as well as seeing my GP regularly – do I have to notify each one?

Not necessarily. Your GP or hospital is required to put a flag on your medical records which can be shared between departments and locations. When you’re referred between services the information about your preferred format and communication needs should be shared. However some patients are finding it easier to take a letter to their appointments in different clinics rather than wait for the information to be shared.

Q: What can I do if my GP or hospital says they can’t provide my preferred format?

A: The guidance from NHS England sets out that services must take reasonable steps to ensure that your communications needs are flagged and preferred formats are recorded and used in the future. 

The standard enables practices to send out information by email, either by easily setting up a secure NHS.gov email address, or by seeking your consent that you understand the Data Protection issues involved and that they can send it via their usual email address.

We’re working hard to let people know about the standard. We’re working with local health services to ensure that blind and partially sighted people get information in their correct format and within a reasonable amount of time. If you’re having problems with getting your GP to provide information in your preferred format then please do get in contact with our Campaigns team who can help follow up on this on your behalf.

Q: Where can I find out more information?

A: For more information on this, please visit our dedicated Need it to Read it webpage, email [email protected] or telephone 0303 123 9999.