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New guidance available to help people with disabilities to access GP online services

11 Sep 2017

NHS England, Action on Hearing Loss, Change, The National Autistic Society, RNIB and Sense, have launched new resources to help people with a range of disabilities to access GP online services.

These resources include new patient guides that explain more about GP online services and how to use them, as well as a set of guides to help GP staff to better support people who are deafblind, have hearing loss, sight loss, autism spectrum disorders and/or learning disability.  

An estimated one in six people has hearing loss, 1 in 30 has sight loss while more than 1 in 100 has autism. Furthermore, an estimated 358,000 people in the UK are deafblind and over 1million have a learning disability. Many people with such disabilities also have another long term medical condition and require more frequent access to care from staff at their GP surgery.

The new guides for GP staff will help staff to better support people when they come into the GP surgery, access the GP surgery website and use GP online services. Advice in the staff guides includes information on technologies and apps that can help people with disabilities to more independently book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view their GP record.

The easy read guides about GP online services are suitable for everyone who has a GP and wants to know more about how to book their appointments, repeat prescriptions and view their GP record online. You can get a copy of one or more of these guides free of charge by using this link to download them or by using this email to order a guide or by asking your GP reception staff for a copy.

The guides will be given to health professionals at a number of events. Staff can also downloading the guides here or order multiple copies, free of charge by contacting the Patient Online team.

Dr Masood Nazir, of Hall Green Health, Birmingham, is the national clinical lead for the programme that enables patients to access GP online services. Dr Nazir believes that online access to health records supports practices to further improve clinical care. He said:

“As 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 their 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.”

Hugh Huddy, former chair of the Access Needs Group and Policy Manager at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) highlights the difference that GP Online can make to many disabled people, as well as the crucial role of the Access Needs guides:

“I think most people do realise that getting about when you are blind or partially sighted, or have another disability just is 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 though, 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.”

Representatives from Action on Hearing Loss, Change, The National Autistic Society, RNIB and Sense work alongside two independent people with sensory impairments and NHS England in the Patient Online Access Needs Group. Their role is to increase the accessibility of GP online services. In addition to developing the new GP staff and patients guides, the group have recently been working with GP systems suppliers to increase the user friendliness and accessibility of different systems for patients with hearing loss, sight-loss, deaf-blindness, autism spectrum disorders and/or learning disabilities.

To find out more about the group please contact the Patient Online team by emailing


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