As a patient in the NHS or as someone using social services you have a right of equal access to their services, regardless of your disability. While this seems straightforward, there are some issues that can make knowing your rights in health and social care difficult. In the NHS, many decisions about you as a patient may be medical judgements and these are not necessarily covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) many facilities provided by Social Services are exempt from the DDA if they are provided under a legal (Statutory) obligation. You have many rights other than those covered by the DDA.

You also have rights of access to GP and dental surgeries, hospitals and mobile units such as those used for cancer screening. As adjustments have to be reasonable it may be that a large hospital would be expected to undertake major access works, whereas a small dental practice or GP surgery may be able to provide their service in another way if their premises were inaccessible. This may, for example, be by arranging a home visit. Similarly with auxiliary aids, a hospital may be expected to have induction loops at information/reception counters whereas a small surgery may have a portable induction loop that could be worn by the doctor or receptionist when requested.

When you go to a hospital, clinic or surgery you might need support while waiting for your treatment or during treatment. If you are visually impaired, somebody will need to show you where important facilities are located and make sure that you will be able to get there later if needed. The obvious example is the toilet, which should also be accessible to people with mobility impairment – subject to how reasonable it might be to ensure this.

When staff give information, ask questions or need you to make decisions, you may need support to help you understand what is going on or agree to what happens. If you have to wait for long periods, staff may need to check out your needs. When you are sent for tests, x-rays etc. in hospital, you may need support to get there. When you leave the hospital you may need help with transport. Many of these support issues apply to anyone using the NHS, but for a disabled person the problems that can be caused by not having this support may lead to you receiving a worse service under the DDA. The success of the medical treatment may depend upon you having additional support. For example information about taking medication may need to be in easy-to-understand language or large type. If you use social services, similar issues arise. For example, information should be made available to you in a format that you can access.