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Helping disabled people ‘Access Health’ in Peterborough

30th April 2018

Three young people from City College Peterborough are working with us on an important new project to help improve access to GP services for disabled people.

Picture from left to right: Hazel, Travis, Jo McHattie from Healthwatch, Holly and Aisleen Parker their Tutor.

Travis, Holly and Hazel have a passion for making things better for disabled people. They are founder members of the Access Champions project at City College which has been going for three years.

We have been working with the Access Champions on the Access Health project for the last few months. The aim of Access Health is to make local GP surgeries better informed of the needs of people with sensory and learning disabilities.

The Access Champions have undertaken disability awareness training and have even developed their own level one qualification in disability awareness.  Living with a learning disability gives them first hand experience of the problems that inaccessible information can cause.

We developed the Access Health project because many disabled people have told us about problems they have had when they have done things like go to the GP or hospital. In our Accessible Information as Standard report, published last year, we found that many disabled people were not getting information in a way they could read or understand even though this is the law. The Accessible Information Standard came into force on 1 August 2016.

Access Health Information Packs

The Champions have helped us develop an Access Health information pack that:

  • Explains what health and care organisations must do to meet the Accessible Information Standard.
  • Tells surgeries about the kind of issues disabled people have told us are a problem when they visit health services.
  • What GP surgeries can do to help improve care at their practice.

As part of ‘Access Health’ the young people have also reviewed every GP practice website in Peterborough to see how easy it is for disabled people to find information. On each website the Champions looked at how easy it was to do activities like book a GP appointment. When the Champions looked at the websites, they often had problems finding the information they needed.

  • Sometimes the text was too small or there was too much of it.
  • There weren’t always enough pictures to help them find the information they wanted.
  • Sometimes the colours made it harder to read the information, for example the green text was a problem for people with dyslexia.

The Champions also found websites that were well designed and helped them find what they needed. They really liked one website where there was a clear picture of a telephone to click on to help them find the telephone number.

We have now delivered the first 18 Access Health information packs to surgeries in Peterborough, together with an offer from the Champions to help them improve their websites. The Champions will visit any surgery that takes up their offer and give detailed feedback on the practices website. We will be delivering the rest of the packs later in the year.

The Access Champions wrote part of the letter that went to the GP surgeries. In it they said,

‘By teaming up with Healthwatch, we have doubled the power to make our thoughts and ideas a reality by helping the disabled community gain access to GP surgeries in Peterborough.’

‘We have many dreams to help the disabled community as much as possible, so they can live their lives more independently.’

‘With the Access Champions and Healthwatch working together, we become Access Health; changing the disabled community by supporting access.’

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What is the Accessible Information Standard?

The Accessible Information Standard came into effect from 1 August 2016.

Organisations that provide publicly-funded care and health services need to provide information in a way that people with a sensory or learning disability can understand.

They must also provide communication support where necessary, for example, a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter.
Organisations must do these five things:

  1. Ask you if you have any information or communication needs and find out how to meet your needs.
  2. Record your needs clearly and in a set way.
  3. Highlight or flag your file or notes so it is clear you have information or communication needs, and how to meet those needs.
  4. Share information about your information and communication needs with other providers of NHS and adult social care. They will need your consent to do this.
  5. Take steps to make sure that you get information which you can access and understand and get communication support if you need it.

The Standard applies to patients and carers who need this support.

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