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Sight loss patients failed by NHS

This news post is about 4 years old

Communication remains inadequate

Accessing healthcare information remains a significant problem for blind and partially sighted people.

A report for the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) says too many rely on others to read documents for them.

However this breaches their right to medical confidentiality.

Laura Jones, who wrote the report, said: "This can put patients at risk of missing treatment as well as being confused or misinformed about their healthcare needs," she said.

"The NHS itself puts great emphasis on the cost, in money and time, of missed appointments to over-burdened clinics. So giving patients accessible information makes sense."

The report found that some patients were still not informed they could request information in alternative formats, while others were bluntly told that they could cope without one.

Some lacked confidence to request accessible formats as they didn't want to be considered ‘a burden’ or ‘difficult’, or even didn't feel ‘worthy enough’.

Increasingly, healthcare information is being communicated online, the report notes.

But levels of digital uptake can be significantly lower for people with disabilities, said Jones. "Visual barriers such as inconsistent font-sizes prevent blind and partially sighted people from accessing information with ease. And while there have been advances in screen-reading software, such supportive technology can be expensive."

RNIB Scotland is calling for each of the country’s 14 health board to ensure that accessible information policies are fully implemented to prevent unnecessary anxiety to people with sight loss. It is also calling for awareness training for all healthcare staff on the implications that sight loss can have on communication with patients.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We are clear that blind and partially sighted people should absolutely get healthcare information in accessible formats.

"NHS boards are responsible for delivering this information and we expect all boards to follow the Charter of Patient Rights, which stipulates that everyone should have access to information and services in a way appropriate to their needs.

"The charter was revised and strengthened last summer and we wrote to all boards to remind them of their responsibilities under it."

The report is being launched today (17 February) in Glasgow by Stuart McMillan MSP, chair of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on visual impairment.