Stage 1 – Identifying needs
Asking service users, carers and parents to define their information and communication support needs is fundamental to AIS. Providers should record these needs so service users receive information in a way that aids two-way communication with staff.
“I think the NHS could help people like myself and the staff to be more efficient by having systems in place so that people aren’t guessing what my requirements are.”
It is important for the staff member to ask and record how a service user wishes to receive communication. It is not helpful to record, for example, that a person is ‘deaf’, because being ‘deaf’ does not explain the ability to read written English, whether British Sign Language (BSL) and a BSL interpreter needs to be present, or a preference to have someone speaking to them at eye level (if lip-reading). They may prefer to receive information in writing (document, letter or through the internet). Staff should not make assumptions of needs.
Subsequent changes to communication needs must be recorded only with advice and consent from the service-user.
Asking a person about information or communication support needs should be done when the person visits the organisation’s premises or makes contact for the first time. If this contact is by telephone or email, the next opportunity to have this discussion should be in person (a visit to the organisation). The telephone or an online questionnaire can be used if a visit is difficult to arrange. When face-to-face conversations take place and the intention is to capture communication needs, a private room should be offered.
Tips for clear face-to-face communication
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Questions and prompts to identify needs
Ask questions when the service user first makes contact with the service provider organisation or at the next opportunity – by phone or using an online questionnaire.
Some individuals may willingly share information about their specific communications needs, while others may need support such as prompts, additional questions and/or gestures.
Initial questions must be generic and easy to understand so that the service user, their carers or parents can easily respond.
The organisation, service, team, department or ward needs to agree one or more questions that are standard to maintain consistency in communications.
Feedback from patients and patient groups advises us that terms like ‘disabled’ or ‘disability’ are best avoided to maximise response rates and reduce stigma. Staff in provider organisations must be encouraged to ask these questions to all patients – including those who do not perceive they have special communication needs.
Provider organisations should know that the Standard only provides guidance to manage the communication needs of people with sensory impairments or loss and those with learning disabilities.
The AIS guidance does not cover a service user’s inability to speak or read English.
Suggested questions to identify whether a service user has information and or communication support needs, and the nature of these needs include: