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Your NHS information - your format – when you need it

Since 31st July 2016 your right to accessible NHS information is strengthened by a new NHS standard. The standard is mandatory which means all NHS and social care providers are required to meet the communication needs of their patients and service users, including providing information in accessible formats. It applies to healthcare providers from GPs and dentists to hospitals and pharmacists as well as those providing adult social care.

People who cannot read standard print have been used to the problems that inaccessible NHS information causes, from missing appointments to arriving unprepared for a medical procedure. Being unaware of your diagnosis and the decisions that a specialist makes about your treatment, and not knowing what is written on the dispensing label on your medication box, are also common problems caused by information being unavailable in accessible formats.

It has always been up to people to find ways round the lack of NHS accessible information, from asking other people to help, to scanning and magnifying unreadable bits of paper, to challenging providers under the Equality Act 2010.

None of this is easy especially when you’re unwell.

This new NHS accessible information standard should bring about a dramatic change by putting the onus on NHS providers to ask the patient what they need and provide it as part of their routine service.

They are four practical steps to help you use the new NHS standard to get what you need, along with ways to help others get what they need too.

What NHS providers need to do and when.

Since 1st April 2016, NHS providers must have identified and recorded how their patients need to be communicated with, whether they are visiting the service for the first time, or a regular user.

Since 31st July 2016, these records must be in place, and patients should receive information in a format they can read.

Act now

Step 1 - Take action to notify,

Since April 2016, NHS providers including GP services have been required to capture and record their patients’ accessible format needs on their patient record systems. However, NHS providers aren’t implementing the standard in the same way or at the same time. It’s also important to know that they aren’t setting up systems that automatically identify patient communication needs. It is up to patients to say what they individually require.

Take action: Notify your GP Practice Manager of your required accessible format. You can do this in writing - by letter or if available, by email.

The Bradford & District Disabled People's Forum (BDPF) have created two ways to help you create and send a written notification letter to your GP Practice Manager or Hospital Clinic Administrator:

  • Option 2 - phone us on 01274 481590, text: 07807 593248 or email: to receive a hard copy of the GP notification template.

To find the contact details for your GP Practice, please visit NHS Choices 'find GP services' or call 0300 311 22 33.

Step 2 – Did you get a successful reply from your GP or hospital?

A successful response is when your GP or hospital clinic confirms that your needs have been recorded and flagged on the patient record system, and your needs will be met.

However if you don’t get a response, or if they say they cannot meet your needs for any reason, then treat this as an unsuccessful response.

Take action: Test whether your notification was successful or not by asking yourself these three questions:

  • Did you get a timely response from your GP or hospital?
  • Did your GP or hospital reply to you in the accessible format you requested?
  • Did your GP or hospital confirm they will meet your request?

Step 3 – Share successful and unsuccessful responses with us.

The new NHS standard requires GP services to be able to capture, record, share on referral, and act on your accessible communication needs since 31st July 2016.

Did your GP or hospital respond successfully?

Take action: Let us know if your GP or hospital responded successfully or if they didn’t, please allow three weeks for your GP or hospital to respond.

Call us on 01274 481590, text: 07807 593248 or email:

If your GP or hospital did not reply successfully, we may be able to provide you with advice and information to help you follow up your request.

Step 4 – Engage patient groups and Healthwatch to promote and monitor the new standard.

Local Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) and Healthwatch exist to listen and act on people’s views and experiences of health and social care.

Getting them to promote and monitor the successful implementation of the new NHS standard amongst local healthcare providers will help to ensure local GPs, dentists, pharmacists and hospitals put the standard into practice.

Take action: Contact your PPG and /or local Healthwatch to ask them what they are doing to promote and monitor the standard.

To get in touch with your PPG please contact your GP surgery.

To get your local Healthwatch contact details please visit:


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