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Date posted: 9th August 2022
Today University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) and Sight Loss Councils (SLC) launched two new films with the goal of improving health information for blind and partially sighted people right across the country.
The health trust is on a journey to improve how the Accessible Information Standard (AIS) is implemented and is working with the SLC to ensure the views of patients are central in this.
Make AIS work shares the experiences and stories of people who are blind and partially sighted in getting health information in an accessible format. It 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.
The second film – A strategic perspective on the Accessible Information Standard features Professor Deirdre Fowler, Chief Nurse and Midwife at UHBW. She outlines why equality of access is so important to the trust and how the AIS is being implemented at the trust.
Bristol Sight Loss Council members Jerry Floyd and Anela Wood and Mark Stevens, Assistant General Manager within the division of surgery at UHBW, have been involved in implementing AIS at the trust and star in Make AIS work.
In the film both Jerry and Anela describe both positive and negative experiences of receiving health information in a format they can read.
“Not getting the information in an accessible format always makes me feel incredibly frustrated and really cuts into my independence as a person.”
Anela added: “I have asked my doctors and hospitals to provide information in my preferred formats and they’re perfectly willing to do it but they don’t seem to have a system or a process to log my information so that it’s on my record. So, every time they need to send me something we’re back to square one again.”
Managers at UHBW are sharing their experiences and learning in implementing AIS with other trusts in the hope this improves the patient experience across the whole of the UK.
Professor Fowler said:
“Equality of access is really important at the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston. It’s about being fair and addressing health inequalities.
“The response from the trust board and staff in the trust has been really positive. It’s about standing in someone else’s shoes and responding to their needs. It strengthens our culture of respect.”
In Make AIS work Mark shares a story of a poor patient experience that actually kickstarted the trust’s journey with its AIS programme. He is open though that there is still much to do, which must be balanced with the pressures in operating in the Covid world. He said:
“Whilst the AIS programme at UHBW is firmly under way, there is still quite a lot to be done. We have been implementing a series of workshops and we have been engaging with staff and we’ve really been looking to develop our strategy and create the plan to move forward. That is a real challenge, in terms of providing time resource, whilst facing recovery challenge issues.”
“If I could pass on some tips to other operational managers in terms of making the AIS a reality within their organisations, it has to be about patient involvement, so engagement with individuals, patient groups, support networks, any collaboration to really be the root of all the work that you’re doing.”
The Accessible Information Standard (AIS) was introduced by NHS England in 2016 and was designed to ensure people who need healthcare information in an accessible format, for example Braille, audio or large print, receive this.
But with more than five years after the AIS was introduced, research by Sight Loss Councils has found that nationally 90% of blind and partially sighted people still do not receive health information they could read. In addition, more than half of local NHS bodies have not developed local policies to deliver on the standard’s requirements. This research has led the government to agree to review the standard.
Mike Bell, Sight Loss Councils’ National Public Affairs Lead, said:
“Accessible health information is vital for blind and partially sighted people. Without it, many risk missing appointments, not understanding their treatment or even taking the wrong medication. We hope trusts around the country will watch the films and it will spur them into implementing an AIS programme.”
Thomas Pocklington Trust has created a Professionals Hub which has tips on how staff can apply the AIS and simple adjustments that can support implementation of the AIS. We also share how to best support patients with a visual impairment.