National Health Service – A Guide

Focus on Disability - For Disabled People, the Elderly and their Carers in the UK

Everybody has the right to receive NHS care on the basis of need, not on the ability to pay, lifestyle or any other factor, and the NHS is expected to make it easy for everyone, including disabled people, to use its services.

The Patients Charter sets out the rights and standards for service which you can expect from the NHS.

If the Charter is seen to achieve its ideals is another question!

Services Provided

GP services General practitioners (GP’s) provide general medical care themselves and can refer you on to other NHS professionals or services if necessary. As well as medicines your GP can prescribe items such as elastic stockings, trusses and some wound dressings. See Equipment Most GPs work in partnership with other doctors and are supported by healthcare teams. Staff may include practice nurses, community nurses, therapists and health visitors. They also arrange for aids and equipment for home nursing to be provided, such as incontinence pads and special beds and mattresses. Community mental health nurses work with people with mental health problems. There are also nurses based in the community who work with people who have learning disabilities. Health visitors support families with disabled children.


Physiotherapists have specialist skills in the physical treatment and rehabilitation of people. They help people with a wide range of joint problems, chest conditions, incontinence, pain or difficulties in moving, balance and control of their limbs. They work widely in hospitals and the community, often as part of a multi-disciplinary team, offering a range of therapies.

Occupational therapists

Occupational Therapists work with people of any age with physical or mental problems to promote their independence in caring for themselves, in employment and in leisure activities. In hospital they are part of a multi-disciplinary team enabling patients to return home. In the community, the emphasis is on working with disabled people and their families or carers to resolve the practical problems and restrictions on lifestyle they experience. They have particular expertise and advice to offer in the field of aids, equipment and housing adaptations.

Speech and language therapists

Speech and language therapists treat children and adults with communication difficulties from a wide range of different causes. After assessment and diagnosis, the therapist decides upon a treatment programme to maximise communication skills. When it is not possible to achieve spoken language, methods such as signing or the use of technological aids may be tried. Speech and language therapists can also help with swallowing and feeding problems.

Social workers see Social Services

NHS chiropody services

NHS chiropody /podiatry services may be provided free of charge in a wide variety of settings, including local health centres, day centres and GP surgeries, although this may be limited to medical foot problems rather than routine care. Your GP can direct you to their services.

Pharmacy services

If you cannot get out of the house, it is usually possible to have your prescriptions collected and delivered to your home. Contact your local pharmacist.

Dental services

The community dental service brings dental treatment to people whose disability prevents them from visiting a dentist. General dental practitioners will also treat you at your home or temporary residence, provided your condition requires this and you are no more than five miles away from their practice premises.Ask your local dental practice about this service.

NHS sight tests

If you are unable to get out of the house, you can arrange to have your eyes tested at home. Contact your optician for details.