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People often experience inequity when using health and care services.
We aim to tackle the inequities faced by blind and partially sighted people when it comes to using healthcare and social services. We achieve this by working closely with a variety of stakeholders, forging strong partnerships to improve the coordination between the NHS and social care services. Our ultimate goal is seamless integration, ensuring that support and resources are readily available for those with sight loss.
Sight loss affects people wherever they live, and we understand that every location has its unique needs. Our community-based Sight Loss Councils take these differences into account to ensure that everyone, regardless of where they live, can benefit from a healthcare system that is integrated and fair.
We think visually impaired people deserve the best possible outcomes when using health and care services, and we’re doing a great deal to make this happen. Sight Loss Councils, led by blind and partially sighted volunteers, provide awareness sessions to healthcare professionals to raise awareness about visual impairment. For example, we are working with Northumbria University to bring about curriculum changes in nursing, midwifery, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and social work courses, ensuring that visual impairment awareness becomes a standard part of students’ education. We have established best practice accessibility in Bristoland also have programmes across the West Midlands and the North West. Sight Loss Councils also work with health providers to embed the Accessible Information Standard locally.
Our efforts extend to improving healthcare screening for visually impaired individuals, including addressing challenges like bowel cancer screening. We collaborate with organisations like NHS England, the RNIB, and regional partners to make sure that health screening is accessible and inclusive for everyone.
Our mission is to champion accessibility in healthcare for blind and partially sighted individuals on two fronts:
Building on our past initiatives, we are committed to broadening the accessibility of at-home medical tests as their usage within the NHS will only increase after the COVID-19 crisis.
We believe that addressing both of these challenges will significantly reduce health inequalities faced by blind and partially sighted people.
As part of our #MakeHealthAccessible campaign, we are building upon our collaborative work with NHS England and sector partners to improve accessibility in bowel cancer testing. We’ve worked on the design and instructions for the FIT (faecal immunochemical test) home test kit, adapting the standard device to be user-friendly for blind and partially sighted people when received through the post as part of the national screening program.
But our campaigning goes beyond bowel cancer screening. We want to advocate for the accessibility of other medical tests while ensuring that in-surgery support for individuals with sight loss remains, regardless of the invention of new devices.
Your input is vital. Lived experiences are powerful tools for change. We encourage you to participate in our survey and share your experience to strengthen our cause. Your feedback will help us emphasise the importance of this issue and shed light on the specific challenges you face with different types of tests. It will provide an accurate and up-to-date representation of the experiences of blind and partially sighted people with at-home testing.
Rest assured that all responses are entirely anonymous. Whether you’ve struggled with diabetes or pregnancy tests, your real-life examples are invaluable.
To stay informed about our ongoing efforts and developments related to this campaign, as well as our other work, sign up for our campaign newsletter.
We call upon NHS England and all affiliated health and social care entities to ensure that their newly introduced Accessible Information Standard (AIS) guarantees that blind and partially sighted individuals receive health-related information in formats they can read and understand.
In our pursuit of accessible health information, we’ve worked closely with Sight Loss Councils to advocate for better compliance with the AIS. This standard, introduced by NHS England in 2016, is aimed at ensuring that individuals with sight loss receive appointment letters and information about medications and treatments in accessible formats. Unfortunately, many blind and partially sighted individuals still encounter difficulties in accessing such information, even after requesting it.
Our campaign for the AIS has included a range of initiatives, including the development of written and video guidance for healthcare professionals, support letters for individuals to send to NHS Trusts, and a petition giving a voice to blind and partially sighted people. These collective efforts have successfully prompted a review, the findings of which are expected to be published later this year. However, our work on this cause doesn’t stop here.
The ‘Make AIS work‘ film shares the experiences and stories of BPS members in getting health information in an accessible format. The film also highlights the growing work at UHBW in implementing AIS and provides practical examples other NHS Trusts and health organisations can make that will benefit patients.
While the introduction of a new standard is a positive step, we remain concerned about its ability to enforce compliance effectively. We urge you to bookmark this page to stay informed about ways to support our efforts. We will be posting campaign actions here soon, ensuring you are kept up to date with the latest developments.
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The Professionals’ Hub provides valuable advice and guidance for NHS staff on how to implement the AIS with ease. There are also tips on helping patients with visual impairments and links to additional resources.
Read Eammon Dunne’s recent feature in IFNA.