Better Care

ACT Referral and service specifications

ACT is commissioned by NHS England to accept all referrals that meet the national AAC and/or EC referral criteria. 

ACT can accept equipment only requests  EOR for AAC equipment provision. There is a pathway and NHSE criteria to be followed. ACT operates a telephone referral and helpline system.  

An experienced clinician will be available to take calls on this number from 9am till 4pm, Monday, Wednesday and Friday on 0121 466 3028.

The ACT referral and helpline was developed in collaboration with local therapy teams.

The ACT referral and helpline will provide a first point of contact to access:

  • specialist assessment held in an appropriate setting
  • detailed advice and signposting to other services, including support to move your client forward towards meeting the NHS England referral criteria.

ACT Clinicians will work with callers to identify the best way to support clients based on identified skills and needs. When appropriate the ACT clinician will offer an appointment date at the time the referral is made. This will depend on the NHS England prioritisation criteria.  (Please note that you will need to confirm this date with the client and team around them and notify ACT within ten working days.)

This telephone service is the initial point of contact for new clients for the service including: environmental controls, alternative computer access and augmentative and alternative communication.

For activity around clients with whom are we are currently working with please call our main office number 0121 466 3050 which is open business hours Monday to Friday.

In order to accept a referral ACT will need information on:

Client: GP, date of birth, diagnosis, address and contact details, physical/cognitive abilities and impairments

Goals: as identified by the team and the patient (where appropriate), and what has been tried locally.

Environments: details of schools, day centres etc, information on the team supporting the client and what on-going support is available.

Where AAC is part of the reason for the referral it is usually appropriate that the West Midlands AAC Care pathway is used at a local level to build intervention over time.  A copy can then be sent to the ACT Duty account. Please send this only from an account. 

Please note that referrals will not be accepted without full information.

ACT is commissioned by NHS England to accept all referrals that meet the national AAC and/or EC referral criteria. 

Guide to commissioning AAC services 

 NHS England has produced a guide to explain how Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) services for those with difficulty with speech are organised and commissioned, with signposts for how to access the support the services provide.

Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) Referral  Criteria:

A decision flow chart has been developed and agreed nationally by the AAC Subgroup (of the NHS England Clinical Reference Group for Complex Disability Equipment) which patients can be accepted by specialised services, and which patients should be the responsibility of the local AAC (SLT) service:

Access to Communication and Technology 
West Midlands Rehabilitation Centre
91, Oak Tree Lane
Selly Oak
B29 6JA

Tel: 0121 466 3028 

Monday, Wednesday and Friday
9am - 4pm


This is in the context of the service specification document for AAC which says:

“Specialised AAC services will work with their local AAC teams to build their capacity to manage directly the needs of 90% of the region’s AAC population and to jointly manage the needs of the 10% of the region’s population that require powered communication aids or specialised AAC assessment.”

For further information please view the D01/S/b Complex Disability Equipment – Communication Aids Service Specification

Environmental Controls (EC) Referral Criteria

“Environmental Controls assessment and provision will be for people who meet the following criteria: 

  • Profound and potentially complex physical disability, such that they are unable to operate standard (remote) controls for functioning independently in the home
  • Cognitively and physically able to operate EC equipment consistently
  • Able to demonstrate sustained motivation to use the EC equipment
  • Individuals who require multiple control functions integrated into a single means of access and for whom multiple devices, each with separate function, are inappropriate
  • Where individuals have a variable condition (e.g. progressive neurological condition), the above criteria can be applied with regard to the person’s anticipated, as well as current needs”


The specification for Environmental Control System is available on the following link - D01/S/c Complex Disability Environmental Controls

Computer Access Referral Criteria

“The specialised service will assess and provide equipment for a patient who meets the above criteria and who:

  • Is unable to access their computer through standard means (mouse, keyboard etc) but would be expected to be able to use the equipment with the provision of suitable aids or adaptations
  • Demonstrates an intention to require access to IT to support independence and daily living
  • Does not have computer access difficulties solely related to sensory difficulties (i.e. visual or hearing difficulties)
  • Does not intend to use the computer primarily for educational or work situations or environments
  • Has a level of literacy adequate for the tasks they wish to be able to achieve, or have ongoing access to adequate training and support to achieve this”

Assessment appointment

This is the initial meeting in a series of appointments where ACT offers extended face to face support.  Assessment appointments are carried out in the most appropriate setting; this is likely to be the client’s home, school or day centre. It is likely that provision of equipment will be considered and trialled.

If you are unsure whether your client meets the referral criteria, please call the ACT referral and helpline 0121 466 3028 to discuss this as we offer telephone support and advice. 

If you are a family member, carer or potential service user please call us for initial advice and support but we will need to contact professionals for further information.