Meeting the Accessible Information Standard: Healthwatch Camden organises Practical Support Visits for Camden’s GPs

Local visually impaired, d/Deaf and people with learning disabilities told us they face difficulties if GPs do not meet their communication support needs. 

So we talked with patients in focus groups and one-to-one interviews. We published a report including recommendations for action which are in line with the new Accessible Information Standard (AIS) which came into force in July 2016.

The AIS insists that GPs and other health services find out if their patients have any communication support needs and make sure that they provide information in appropriate formats. We know this is important because local people told us that if they get information they can’t use — like forms to fill out that are too small to see properly or letters that are difficult to understand or messages they can’t hear — this stops them making best use of the services they need.

We had a follow up meeting where people who took part in the research got a chance to speak direct to the GPs and the Camden Clinical Commissioning Group.

Everyone agreed that GPs need to:

  • Introduce systems to identify patients with communication support needs
  • Provide accessible verbal and written communication
  • Show greater sensitivity to individual patient preferences  

GPs explained that it’s difficult to make changes because they’re short of time and resources. We teamed up with the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and with GPs who are part of the Local Medical Committee (LMC) and GP Practice Managers and Receptionists to work out what we could do to help.

GP practices wanted practical, on-site support.

  • So we offered to provide AIS Practical Support Visits for every GP practice in Camden.
  • We developed a check list and package of materials for the visits.
  • We field tested and refined our package.
  • The Learning Disabilities Service of the Council agreed to provide assistance with Easy Read materials and free d/Deaf awareness training
  • We worked with voluntary sector partners representing people with communication support needs to check our materials and approach.

The CCG invited practices to book our practical support visits. The response was high. So far we’ve visited 22 GP practices in Camden to help them implement the basic requirements of the AIS.

Support visits include:

  • Provision of GMS1 registration form in Large Print and Easy Read format.
  • Creation of Large Print and Easy Read health check forms customised for each practice.
  • Poster and electronic messaging to encourage patients to identify their communications support needs and inform staff.
  • Advice on recording and coding support needs.
  • Testing hearing loop and advice on repair or purchase if necessary.
  • Booking free d/Deaf awareness training.
  • Advice on online BSL service.

One hundred percent feedback forms give the support visits top rating in every category.

If your GP practice wants to book an AIS Practical Support Visit with Healthwatch Camden, just email