Health literacy is central to ensure fairness and equity in the NHS, with high-quality services being delivered to all.

Do you know the difference between Accident and Emergency and Urgent Care?
Ever sat in a waiting room, staring curiously at the sign and wondered what it means?
Not quite sure why you might go to a walk-in-centre as opposed to making an appointment with your GP?

All of these are questions our helpline try to help people understand, but many of us still remain in the dark to these questions. That's why we’re are calling for better health and social care education and awareness raising, so that we can all be better champions of our own health. The Patients Association is committed to improving the level of health literacy of patients and the public.

What is health literacy?

Health literacy is defined by the World Health Organisation as: "the personal characteristics and social resources needed for individuals and communities to access, understand, appraise and use information and services to make decisions about health."

Why should we try and improve health literacy?

Increasing health literacy allows patients to be more engaged with their health and has a significant effect on the overall health of the population.

The problems brought by low health literacy are many, and affect all areas of healthcare. Health Literacy UK discovered that health information in current circulation is written at too complex a level for 43% of working age adults (16-65 years), with this figure rising to 61% if the health information includes numeracy.

Due to the effects of NHS efficiency savings and the need for a more preventative system, it’s becoming more important that patients are equipped with knowledge of how to stay healthy.

Patients must be presented with the tools and knowledge about their healthcare to be able to be partners in their care and involved in decisions about the best treatment for them.


In order to address this, the Patients Association have run events to promote patient involvement in their health needs and have created informative leaflets.

Working Together: An essential guide for healthcare practitioners, researchers, educators and regulators looking to work with service users, patients, carers and members of the public

The guide aims to facilitate the process of working together and enhancing health literacy by summarising the existing literature, clarifying terminology and presenting good examples of practice.

For more information please contact Heather Eardley, Head of Projects and Partnerships on [email protected]  or 07872 633 189.