Skip to content

Navigation breadcrumbs

  1. Home
  2. Our work
  3. Projects
  4. Accessible and inclusive communication within primary care

Accessible and inclusive communication within primary care

This project outlines insights and key issues faced by people with diverse communication needs when accessing primary care services. It proposes that system partners co-design, co-produce, and implement actions to support inclusive communication.

  • Primary care
  • Health inequalities
  • Communication and administration

What matters to people with diverse communication needs

Primary care services are the front door to the NHS – they are the first port of call when we feel unwell and the main coordinator of care when we are living with health conditions. The primary care team has an important role in making people feel welcomed, listened to and taken seriously.  

Yet, at National Voices, we often hear examples of people who have not had their communication needs met within primary care. This includes people with sensory impairments, learning disabilities, autism, dementia and/or with low or no literacy. We also know people who don’t speak English fluently, live nomadically, are experiencing homelessness or are digitally excluded also struggle to communicate in ways that work for them. 

As just one example, five years after the launch of the Accessible Information Standard, 67 percent of Deaf people reported there was still no accessible way of contacting their general practice.

Insights and recommendations

As part of this project to identify how to improve communications we worked with a range of member organisations including SignHealth, Groundswell, and Dementia UK among others. Alongside this we also talked with people with lived experience who were facing a wide range of communications concerns. 

This subsequent report sets out the key issues faced by people with specific communication needs within primary care and outlines what changes they feel would make the biggest difference to them. It also sets out key actions primary care leaders and teams should take to support inclusive communication. 

Based on the insights gathered we recommend NHS England develop a programme of work to support Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to improve inclusive communication in primary care. ICSs should do this by working their local providers and people with lived experience of communication to co-design, co-produce, and implement necessary actions. 


The Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency have provided a grant through the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance for our independent work on accessible and inclusive communications in primary care. 

We would like to particularly thank National Voices’ Associate Kate Jopling for her significant contributions on this project. 

We would like to particularly thank voluntary sector organisations and people with lived experience of communication issues for their advice and input on this work, including SignHealth, Starting Point, Groundswell, National Autistic Society, Learning Disability England, Roma Support Group, Friends, Families and Travellers, Dementia UK, Healthwatch England, Thomas Pocklington Trust and others.  

We would also like to particularly thank Jean Ledger, Rosie Francis, James Raymond and Dr Minal Bakhai from NHS England for their input and advice on this independent report, as well as representatives from the General Dental Council and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.