Denise McLaughlin talks about the Accessible Information Standard

Posted on Tue, 08/10/2019 by Denise McLaughlin

Denise AIS NHS Gateshead

I have always worked to support those with learning disabilities. I began my nursing career as a Student Learning Disability Nurse in 1991 at Durham , and have worked across numerous specialisms including challenging behaviour, community and forensic services, all within the Learning Disability field of practice.

My current role is that of Learning Disability Lead Nurse. The main purpose of the role is to ensure that all of our patients with learning disabilities are fully supported by making reasonable adjustments to their care, and that staff are supported in delivering the care by having access to the information they need.  This can include booking in longer appointments for patients or ensuring that there is minimal waiting time. Where appropriate I have also organised for carers to stay with the patient beyond normal visiting times and also to be with the patient in areas that do not normally allow visitors, such as within anaesthetics and recovery.

 An essential element of my role is ensuring that all documents and patient leaflets are in an ‘easy read’ format. This mandates us to simplify language or even use pictures to describe things. Therefore, I very much welcome the Accessible Information Standard (AIS). Essentially AIS means that we as a Trust are legally obliged to provide patients with information they can understand and give them the communication support they need.

To comply with AIS, there are five things we need to do.

Firstly, we need to identify patients that require support. This can be done by asking patients if they have any information or communications needs and find out how to meet those needs.

Secondly, we need to record those needs in a set way that is highly visible, using specific definitions.

Thirdly, we need to use alerts or flags to make it clear on the patients file what their needs are and prompt action to meet those needs.

Fourthly, we need to share this information with other NHS and adult social care providers.

And lastly and most importantly we need to make sure patients get their information in an accessible way and have the communication support they need.

Over the past five years I have worked closely with clinicians to help ensure leaflets and patient information is already in an easy read format. When we work on a leaflet re-design it really makes us think about what information is needed and what isn’t. Having printed material can help to reduce anxiety of care for all patients as it can explain procedures and also patients do not have to try to remember everything that is said to them within discussions about their care. 

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