ONE in four patients who have extra communication needs, including deaf and blind people, have been refused communication support while accessing NHS care, a poll suggests.
A survey of 605 people with communication needs in England, including people who have sight or hearing loss or have mental health issues, found that two thirds said communication support had got worse since the start of the pandemic.
Some 28 per cent said they had been refused a request for support to understand healthcare information, according to analysis by Healthwatch England, such as being provided in formats such as Braille, British Sign Language and easy-read.
Some 38 per cent said that not being given information in the right format affected their mental health and wellbeing, while 29 per cent said they missed out on important information about their health and 27 per cent said they could not contact a service they needed.
Sarah Leadbetter from Narborough, Leicestershire, was diagnosed with Bardet-Biedl syndrome, a disease that affects sight, at the age of 23, but is often sent letters by healthcare services.
The 46-year-old has asked for information to be sent via email so that she can use an audio tool that reads out her messages.
Healthwatch England said that health and care services are failing in their legal duty to provide accessible information for people with physical and learning disabilities.
The patient champion called on new NHS bodies to ensure that all parts of the system are accessible to all.
Dr Michael Brady, deputy director for patient equalities at NHS England, said: “We are now reviewing the Accessible Information Standard, including how to better ensure people’s communication needs are met, and we welcome the support from patient groups.”