A blind woman was discharged from a health clinic after missing appointments she didn't realise she had - because she was only notified of them by post.

Rachael Andrews requests all of her communications through email, making use of audio reading equipment to listen to their contents.

This allows her to access sensitive information without the need to share it with anybody else - as otherwise she would require somebody to read letters aloud to her.

But she says she faces troubles convincing different organisations to correspond with her through emails, which she describes as "a constant battle".

The issue came to a head when she received a letter informing her she had been discharged from pain management care she was receiving for fibromyalgia at the Adelaide Street pain clinic in Norwich, which she was referred to through the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The hospital has since agreed to communicate with her through email first, but the discharge came after she missed a number of appointments - and it was only after she relented and allowed her carer to read a letter to her that she discovered what had happened.

As a result she suffered severe delays in the treatment she was receiving - some of which she still has not had almost two years later.

The 49-year-old from Thorpe St Andrew, who is an equal rights campaigner, said: "I was shocked when I found out - how could I have missed appointments when I didn't know I had them?

"It can be such a pain in the backside to convince people to contact me via email. You get all kinds of resistance and comments about how email is less secure, but having to ask somebody to read out my own letters feels like a security breach too."

A spokesperson for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said: “We are sorry to Ms Andrews for the difficulties she experienced and we have agreed that all clinic letters and appointments are sent to her by email.

"We’d like to thank Ms Andrews for her insights to help make our communication with patients more accessible and her feedback has been reported back to our diversity networks and clinical teams.

"Our patient experience team has also arranged Deafblind awareness training sessions for staff to help explain some of the barriers faced by people who have either vision or hearing impairments.”

Charities vent frustration

Mrs Andrews is joining two charities in highlighting communication shortcomings in the health and care sector.

According to a study commissioned by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and SignHealth, 37pc of healthcare professionals said they had not been trained on the Accessible Information Standard - which was introduced in 2016.

This is a set of legal requirements the health sector has to follow to ensure the needs of people with disability, impairment or sensory loss are met.

Mrs Andrews said: "I was delighted when the Accessible Information Standard came out and registered my preference of correspondence as email many times.

"For all I know, I missed out on other important information from the clinic too."

Phil Ambler, England county director for RNIB, said: "Blind and partially sighted patients encounter a series of obstacles which can ultimately put their health at risk.

"We need urgent action to get the patients the information they need in formats they can read - and not another five years of missed appointments and incomplete information.