McMillan highlights challenges for visually impaired people accessing health care

Stuart McMillan MSP led a Member’s Debate in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 10 March 2020 to highlight some of the issues people with visual impairments face when trying to access health care.

Key findings from RNIB Scotland’s latest report, Communication Failure? A review of the accessibility of health information for blind and partially sighted people, include patient confidentiality being breached and individuals being put at risk of missing appointments due to a lack of accessible documents.

The Greenock and Inverclyde SNP MSP spoke at the launch of the report in Glasgow last month in his role as the Convenor of the Cross-Party Group on Visual Impairment.

Speaking in the debate, Stuart said:

“The Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011 and its accompanying Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities states that patients have the right to be given information about their care and treatment in a format or language that meets their needs. Unfortunately, this report suggests that this commitment it not always being met in Scotland.

“Protecting constituents’ confidentiality is paramount for MSPs, so to hear that patient confidentiality is being breached due to individuals relying on carers, relatives or friends to read appointment letters on their behalf is concerning.

“Individuals are also at risk of missing appointments or treatments, potentially leading to unnecessary sight loss, due to the lack of accessible documents.

“On top of this, the report found that some individuals were told that they did not need the accessible documents they requested, and many lacked the confidence to make requests in line with their requirements or to complain about their health service.

“As concerning as these findings are, this must be seen as an opportunity to review how accessible health and social care services are across Scotland. Each Scottish Health Board must take more responsibility and accountability to provide timely information that is person-centred, including the implementation of legislative requirements to ensure their websites are accessible for all.

“Scotland is the only country in the UK to provide free universal NHS funded eye examinations. This continual investment from the SNP in government is helping prevent unnecessary sight loss and detect other medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

“However, it’s clear that we can and must do more to improve the health service on offer to people with sight loss.”

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