Assisted communication support

The communication equipment and support legislation (part of the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care)(Scotland) Act 2016) places a duty on health boards to provide or secure the provision of communication equipment, and the support in using that equipment, to any person (children and adults) who has lost their voice or has difficulty speaking.

The See Hear strategy (February 2014) provides a strategic framework of action for meeting the needs of people with a sensory impairment. This is against a background of increasing demand, requirements for greater efficiency and effectiveness and Health and Social Care Integration. It covers children and adults with sight loss, deafness, and dual sensory loss.

More information is in the following sections: 

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Communication equipment and associated support is also known as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).

We are committed to improving the lives of children and adults who have lost their voice or have difficulty speaking. This will make a real difference to people’s lives and makes sure they have a voice to be heard.

We launched A Right to Speak in 2012 and Now Hear Me (2015 NHS Education for Scotland), which set out a vision for Scotland where people who use AAC are fully included in our society.

We introduced communication equipment and support legislation as part of the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care)(Scotland) Act 2016. This legislation places a duty on health boards to provide or secure the provision of communication equipment, and the support in using that equipment, to any person (children and adults) who has lost their voice or has difficulty speaking.

Specialist AAC provision is delivered by the NHS and Integration Joint Boards through speech and language therapy and often in collaboration with education, social work and the third sector as appropriate.

We produced the following to support the implementation of the legislation:

Sensory impairment

People with a sensory impairment expect a seamless provision of assessment, care and support and the same access to employment, education and leisure as everyone else.

We are committed to supporting children and adults who have deafness, sight loss and dual sensory loss to access the health services and social care they need through our See Hear Strategy (February 2014). This strategic framework was developed in partnership with local authorities, health boards and the third sector.

Strategy recommendations and areas for action are delivered through local partnerships. This ensures a responsive, flexible approach to deliver person-centred outcomes, support and care.

Since 2014, we have provided almost £4m to establish and support a national network of See Hear Leads and local partnerships across every local authority area in Scotland. The 2019-2020 budget is £478k - of which £320k per year is allocated to local authorities based on local population size.


Veterans (including those who have served as reservists) receive priority access to NHS primary, secondary and tertiary care, for any conditions relating to their service, based on clinical need, including audiology and hearing aids. 

We promote pathways for veterans with sensory impairment, including promoting referrals to Scottish War Blinded. We do this through our national network of See Hear Leads and throughout the care home sector and through the Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI) form.

More information on healthcare for veterans is in our armed forces and veterans community policy.

Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI) (Scotland) 

The Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI) (Scotland) Form is a clinical registration form used to certify someone as sight impaired or severely sight impaired. This means that the local authority or agency acting on their behalf can place their name on the register of sight impaired people (if they consent). It replaces the BP1 form. The form is for people aged 16 and over

The CVI Scotland form will also be used to record diagnostic and other data that may be used for epidemiological analysis and to inform the planning of local and national services for people with sight loss.

Supporting children and young people

Arrangements for supporting young people and children under the age of 16 with a visual impairment follow the Visual Impairment Network for Children and Young People (VINCYP) pathway

VINCYP is a clinical network across Scotland and is commissioned and managed by NHS National Services Scotland. 

Once a child or young person is recognised as having a visual impairment then, with their parent’s/carer’s consent, they are notified to VINCYP and referred to the central referral contact in their NHS Board for access to the required support.


We have also provided £1m funding over the period 2016-2020 to deliver the contactSCOTLAND-BSL Video Relay Service. ContactSCOTLAND–BSL is a fully funded, national, online, British Sign Language (BSL) Video Relay Service (VRS), that enables deaf and deafblind BSL users to contact and interact with Scottish public sector, third sector and private sector bodies.

More than 161 BSL users use the service every month and the numbers are steadily increasing. The service is also accessible to deafblind BSL users, by making use of braille displays and speech synthesisers. 

From June 2019 the service expanded to enable calls to private sector numbers as well as statutory and third sector numbers. Also from that date the service became available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

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