Are you using the ‘accessible information standard’

Since 31 July 2016 all organisations providing NHS or adult social care services must have fully implemented the accessible information standard by law.

What is the accessible information standard?

The accessible information standard was established by NHS England and its partners, to bring in line current health and social care strategy and policy that supports the reduction of inequalities for people with a disability, impairment or sensory loss.

The standard tells organisations how they should make sure that patients and service users, and their carers, can access and understand the information they are given. This includes making sure that people get information in different formats if they need it. For example, in large print, braille, easy read or via email, or with support from an interpreter (i.e. British Sign Language (BSL), deafblind interpreter or advocate).

What is the purpose of the accessible information standard?

Despite the existence of legislation and guidance, service users do not always receive information from health and social care organisations in formats which they are able to understand and do not receive the support they need to communicate.

The aim of the accessible information standard is to define a specific and consistent approach to identifying, recording, flagging, sharing and meeting the information and communication support needs of patients, service users, carers and parents, where those needs relate to a disability, impairment or sensory loss.


The overall goal is to improve transparency and access to information, and enhance personalisation and choice for individuals, so that they are empowered to make decisions about their health and wellbeing, and self-manage their condition.

Which organisations have to follow this Standard?

The Standard applies to all providers of NHS and publically funded adult social care. This include, providers from the voluntary, community and private sectors, and suppliers of IT systems e.g. software and hardware to health and adult social care organisations and providers.

What must organisations do to implement the Standard?

There are five things that organisations must do to implement the accessible information standard. They must:

  1. Ask people if they have any information or communication needs, and find out how to meet their needs. 
  2. Record those needs clearly and in a set way. 
  3. Highlight or flag the person’s file or notes so it is clear that they have information or communication needs and how to meet those needs. 
  4. Share information about people’s information and communication needs with other providers of NHS and adult social care, when they have consent or permission to do so. 
  5. Take steps to ensure that people receive information which they can access and understand, and receive communication support if they need it. 

To fully comply organisations may need to make changes to their policies and procedures, where applicable, electronic systems.

For more information on the accessible information standard visit the NHS England website at

Source: NHS England, SCCI1605 Accessible Information: Specification, First Published 3 July 2015

Edna Petzen @LyndenConsult is the director and consultant at Lynden Consulting, a strategic management, marketing and communications company helping organisations develop marketing strategy, build and protect their brand, improve performance and achieve communication excellence. Find out more.

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