Local AAC Services
“It is estimated that 0.5% of the population would benefit from AAC generally and 0.05% could benefit from powered communication aids… The technologies are there. But commissioning of services, funding arrangements and underpinning knowledge and expertise of healthcare professionals have not risen to the challenge.” - Source
Since the NHS England Specialised AAC Services were established, it has become apparent that there is significant variation across regions in the provision of local AAC services. Based on the data offered in the Shining a light on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Communication Matters: an AAC Evidence Base research project – final report (April 2013), local AAC services are responsible for meeting the need of 0.5% of the population in their region. In some areas, it is recognised that there are long established and commissioned local AAC services, which meet the requirements as suggested in the NHSE document “Guidance for commissioning AAC services and equipment” however, in many areas there is no commissioned local AAC service at all.
Ace Centre is committed to help support the establishment and development of local AAC services in both the Thames Valley & Wessex and Northwest regions within which we provide the NHSE Specialised AAC Services. Ace Centre values the importance of local AAC services, not only to improve the equity and quality of local AAC provision but to also ensure the appropriate referral and support to clients with the most complex communication needs to the NHSE Specialised AAC Service. The proposed ‘Hub and Spoke’ model for AAC Services, as described in Guidance for commissioning AAC services and equipment (NHS England, March 2016), can only work effectively if local AAC services are commissioned with a defined budget and a commitment to increasing the knowledge and skills of the local AAC workforce.
What support can Ace Centre offer?
The Local Services Working Party was established in 2018 and together, the working party (made up of representatives from each NHSE Specialised Service) created a Local AAC Services Commissioning Toolkit. The purpose of the toolkit is to signpost professionals working in the field to useful resources, which can support the establishment of a local AAC service. Topics covered within the toolkit include:
- Data Gathering: This section aims to outline important minimum data which will be helpful for approaching commissioners, alongside highlighting factors to consider when collecting data. Suggestions for formats for data collection and a data collection tool, which can be customised to meet local needs are provided within this section.
- Approaching Commissioners: This section aims to provide information regarding commissioning arrangements within the NHS and provides an outline of the role of Commissioning Support Units (CSU). The section includes a guide to business case writing and an explanation of how the Individual Funding Requests (IFR)/Evidence Based Intervention Request (EBI) process works and the role of the Effective Use of Resources panel (EUR) alongside tips for completing an IFR & how to find locally relevant information.
- Strategic Development: This section aims to give an overview of a typical structure of a local AAC service and provide signposting to resources which can help with the strategic development of a service. The resources include an overview of the remit of a local AAC service & how they interact with Specialised AAC Services nationally. Documents containing useful information regarding statistics and prevalence to support with service planning are signposted along with quality standards and tables to RAG rate against these standards. A range of sample service specifications, pathways and levels of service provision are also provided.
- Service Implementation: This section includes practical elements to consider when setting up a service e.g. sample referral forms, leaflets, infection control and data protection considerations etc. Sample Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and suggestions for equipment management and outcome measures are included
Ace Centre can offer support to local teams within the Thames Valley & Wessex and Northwest regions to implement the toolkit in their region.
Support could include:
- Attending meetings (either face to face or virtually) to discuss the four aspects of service development described above and how to apply the examples to individual local service needs.
- Help and advice with data collection and analysis methods including exploration of software such as Microsoft Power BI for this purpose.
- Advice and support to profile the professional development needs of the local AAC workforce.
- Access to training opportunities via Ace Centre Learning.
- Joint assessment/advice sessions to local clients who may not be eligible for the NHSE Specialised AAC Service.
LAACES Loan Bank
To assist local teams with the evidencing of AAC need at a local level, Ace Centre offers a loan bank of equipment. A variety of AAC resources can be loaned from Ace Centre on a short-term basis to assist local AAC practitioners in building up evidence to submit Individual Funding Requests where there is no current local AAC budget. Equipment can also be loaned by AAC practitioners to develop their own skills and knowledge of hardware and software they may be less familiar with.