West Midlands Mayoral Round Table Event
West Midlands Sight Loss Councils (WM SLCs) attended the ‘Mayoral Health of The Region Round Table’ this month to help make healthcare accessible for blind and partially sighted people
WM SLCs, health professionals, stakeholders, integrated care boards (ICB’s) and NHS community trusts from across the West Midlands come together in Birmingham. The event built on the 2020’s Health of the Region report, which set out the scale of health inequality across the region.
West Midlands SLC were invited to speak about the barriers to healthcare for blind and partially sighted people across the West Midlands.
They shared their lived experience of:
- The lack of consistency between departments and/or medical practices.
- The Accessible Information Standard (AIS) not being adhered to and lack of accountability.
- Inaccessible transport for blind and partially sighted people, which prevents them from getting to and from healthcare appointments safely and independently.
- Staff being unaware how to communicate with blind and partially sighted patients or how to offer sighted guiding.
- What needs to be done to move forward in improving the above.
It was a very productive meeting with many positive conversations taking place. Plans are already being actioned to continue to make the health care provision across the region accessible.
As a result of their contribution, West Midlands Sight Loss Councils have been invited to the next round table event, ‘Health Inequalities – Regional Disability Strategy’, in February.
Delegates at the West Midlands Mayoral Roundtable event
Louise Connop, Senior Engagement Manager for Central England, said:
“It was a great opportunity to discuss the barriers to healthcare that blind and partially sighted people face. We were able to challenge the health professionals to discuss how we can work collaboratively to make positive change in the field.
“We highlighted the need for the AIS to be adhered to and how they are being held accountable. We shared the difficulties that inaccessible public transport brings regarding reaching health services, and how we need to move forward in working to resolve these issues.
“We look forward to continuing this work at the regional disability strategy meeting with stakeholders in February.”
Most blind and partially sighted people still regularly fail to have their communication support needs met.
NHS England introduced the Accessible Information Standard (AIS) to ensure all health information is provided in the most accessible format for each patient (e.g., in braille, large print, audio, email).
Not having accessible health information can cause a range of issues. This can include missing appointments and not understanding treatments, to even taking the wrong medication.
Unfortunately, our research shows that:
- 90% of the blind and partially sighted people we spoke to were not regularly receiving medical information in their preferred format, with a third saying they never had.
- 51% of NHS bodies reported that they had never engaged people with disabilities as part of their AIS implementation.
Sight Loss Councils, together with Thomas Pocklington Trust, have been campaigning to #MakeHealthaccessible, and in 2022 the Government agreed to a review of the AIS. This is expected to be published in 2023.
Andy Street, Mayor for West Midlands, addressing delegates at the Mayoral round table event
Can you help?
We’re keen to continue to work with as many NHS trusts, doctors, nurses and staff as possibleto increase awareness of the AIS and ensure blind and partially sighted people can access the healthcare they need.
To support this, download our letter and send it to anyone you know working in the NHS.
As well as containing the links to our films, this letter underlines the huge importance of the AIS. This is especially important to the health of blind and partially sighted people.
Guidance for health professionals on implementing the Accessible Information Standard (AIS)
Thomas Pocklington Trust has created a Professionals Hub. This has tips on how staff can apply and make simple adjustments to implement the AIS in their healthcare setting . We also share how to best support patients with a visual impairment.
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Publication date: 31 January 2023