Accessible information standard
On 24th June 2015, NHS England issued an information standard aimed at making health and social care information accessible. Pharmacy contractors must comply with the information standard by the end of July 2016.
Pharmacy contractors should review the material NHS England has published to inform and assist in the implementation of the information standard (NHS England accessible information standard, specification and implementation guidance documents). Between January and March 2016, there are also very limited spaces available to attend NHS England run regional accessible information standard implementation workshops which can be booked here.
In July 2015, we also produced PSNC briefing 039/15 which is another available resource.
The accessible information standard appears to outline guiding principles rather than prescriptively impose obligations as to what is specifically required for contractors to comply with it. This means that there is no “one size fits all” and the policy intent here seems to be for substance to take priority over form – two pharmacy contractors may go about asking, recording, sharing and acting upon a patient’s information or communication needs in different ways but could be equally compliant with the accessible information standard. A practical example of how this could manifest itself in practice could be a blind or partially sighted person could communicate to the pharmacy contractor that they cannot see or experience difficulty in reading printed information. If that person agrees to receive information via text or e-mail – e.g. if they already have talking software on their computer/tablet, then this would likely be an action that many community pharmacies could take to meet an expressed communication need. We will all probably have ideas as to what “meeting the standard” means and in practice most community pharmacies are likely to already be doing (to varying degrees) what is required by the accessible information standard. Community pharmacies asking, recording, sharing (where appropriate – protecting patient confidentiality) and acting to ensure that patients receive information which they can access, understand, and receive communication support, if they need it, are the take away points.
PSNC have made representations to NHS England regarding the administrative burden associated with implementing the accessible information standard. We remain committed to ensuring that the accessible information standard is implemented in the most reasonably practicable way as can be agreed.
Further information and support can be sought from a number of charities including Action on Hearing Loss, CHANGE, Sense, and the Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB).