Four new guides to support GP staff to help people with disabilities access GP online services are due to be launched by NHS England next week.
The Access Needs Guides are aimed at supporting people with sight impairment, hearing impairment, autism or learning disabilities and will help GP practice staff to provide practical advice to everyone who wants to know more about how to book their appointments, repeat prescriptions and view their GP record online.
Developed by NHS England’s Access Needs Group with support from the charities Change, RNIB, Sense, The National Autistic Society and Action on Hearing Loss, they will also help staff improve their practice website, communication with patients and more effectively enable the use of accessible technology.
Dr Masood Nazir, national clinical lead for the programme that delivered GP online services at NHS England said:
“Being a GP I am aware of the barriers faced by people with disabilities when accessing care services. GP online services are particularly helpful for many people, as they can use accessible technology such as screen readers to independently book their appointments, order repeat prescriptions and review the information in their health record.
“The Access Needs Group is constantly working to make GP online services as user-friendly and as accessible as possible. I am so pleased to launch the new guides to support GP staff to more effectively help patients to access these services, alongside additional and easy to read information for patients. Together, these resources will support many more people with disabilities to benefit from GP online services.”
To further increase the accessibility of GP online services, a range of easy read service guides will also be launched by NHS England aimed at patients. The easy read guides will directly support them to use and benefit from GP online services and will cover topics such as how to sign up to GP online services, how to keep your account secure and how to request access for a carer.
Both the Access Needs Guides and Easy read patient guides are due to be launched at the Health and Care Expo on 11 and 12 September in Manchester.
Hugh Huddy, former chair of the Access Needs Group is also registered blind and has asthma, said:
“I think most people do realise that getting about when you are blind or partially sighted, or have another disability is just more difficult and challenging than for the average person. What probably isn’t quite as obvious though is how online services can actually cut out the need to make some of those difficult and inaccessible journeys altogether.
“For me and many others, using GP Online to renew a prescription, without having to negotiate my way to the GP surgery, along obstructed pavements and busy road crossings makes a massive difference. Now only one journey is needed to the pharmacy and a chunk of difficulty has been removed from the business of managing personal health.
“Accessibility of the online system itself is key, because disabled people only benefit from online services when they can easily use them. This is why we all created the Access Needs guides. The guides are designed to help ensure GP staff quickly get to grips with the disability adjustments they need to make, and so deliver a system that benefits everybody.”
The Access Needs Group have recently been working with GP systems suppliers to increase the user friendliness and accessibility of different systems for people with hearing impairment, sight impairment, autism spectrum disorders and/or learning disabilities.