A report published today by the national deafblind charity, Sense, highlights the health inequalities and barriers faced by deafblind people accessing healthcare in England.
It comes ahead of the implementation of the Accessible Information Standard on July 31st, and stresses the urgent need for all health and social care providers to deliver a more accessible system for patients with sensory loss.
There are estimated to be over 358,000 deafblind people in the UK and they have some of the greatest health needs in society, with 69 per cent reporting two or more additional long-term health conditions, and 70 per cent requiring ongoing support from a GP or healthcare professional. This underlines the need for all healthcare services to be accessible to people who are deafblind, but to date this need is unmet.
The report indicates that inaccessible information and lack of communication support are the key barriers currently preventing deafblind people from accessing healthcare:
- One in two (56 per cent) deafblind people have left a GP appointment having not understood what had been discussed. Many reported needing to rely on a friend or family member to answer their questions or provide support and the lack of independence that this brought.
- More than three quarters (85 per cent) of deafblind people don’t get information about their healthcare appointments or follow up correspondence in a format that they can access. Most reported that they needed to rely on someone else to read their letters for them so that they could know what was contained in them.
More than a third (35 per cent) of deafblind people are not confident in managing their own health, and it is clear that the current system has put further strain on a group who already feel stressed and anxious.
The introduction of the Accessible Information Standard on July 31st represents a significant step towards addressing barriers to healthcare and improving accessibility for people who are deafblind. It sets out what providers must do in order to identify, record and meet the information and communication needs of those who use their services.
Timed to coincide with its introduction, the Sense report sets out why its successful implementation is essential to improve the lives of deafblind people across the country.
The full report can be downloaded at: https://www.sense.org.uk/healthreport
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