Compass Specialised Augmentative and Alternative Communication Service

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a term used to describe devices or systems that help people to communicate if they have difficulty speaking.

This could be through

  • electronic means, such as computers which provide a synthesised voice, or
  • non-electronic means such as communication books, alphabet charts and other low-tech solutions.

AAC can be a way to help someone’s understanding, as well as a means of expression.
There are many ways to operate a communication device, these range from finger-typing and pressing specialist switches, to using the head to control a mouse – or even using eyes through an Eye Gaze system.

Commissioned by NHS England to be the specialised AAC service for adults in west London, Compass assesses people with complex AAC needs, provides AAC equipment and provides ongoing maintenance and support.
It also provides support and training to local community teams who work with AAC.

The following documents are a useful guide to NHS England Specialised AAC Services and will help you decide if you are eligible for our service:

Our service covers west London (Brent, Croydon, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton and Wandsworth)

Our service is for adults (16 years and over) who have difficulty communicating using speech and who may also have physical difficulties which impact further on their ability to communicate.

As a summary of the criteria, to be eligible for NHS England Specialised AAC Services, a person must:

  • be resident in England
  • be registered with a GP practice in England
  • have a severe/complex communication difficulty associated with a range of physical, cognitive, learning, or sensory deficits
  • have a clear discrepancy between their level of understanding and their ability to speak
  • be able to understand the purpose of a communication aid
  • have developed beyond cause and effect understanding

They may have experience of using low tech AAC that doesn’t meet their needs.

A person must not:

  • have pre-verbal communication skills
  • lack understanding of cause and effect
  • have impaired cognitive abilities that would prevent them from retaining information on how to use equipment

Priority may be given to people:

  • with a rapidly degenerative condition
  • with communication aid equipment that has ceased to be functional, or is unreliable and does not meet their communication needs
  • facing a transition to a new sector (e.g. school, college, workplace) or currently in rehabilitation provision
  • at risk of developing significant psychological problems or challenging behaviour as a consequence of their inability to communicate without a communication aid

What people are saying about Compass


If you would like to talk to someone about whether you meet the referral criteria, email us at (please be aware this is not a secure email address), or call on 020 8780 4500 ext 5965 (if no one is available, please leave a message and someone will get back to you).

If your patient is not eligible for an assessment by a specialised AAC service, they could still receive funding for a communication aid vis their CCG.
Download a copy of our Individual Funding Request guidance which may help you with a CCG application.

You can refer to our Specialised AAC Service securely online here

Here are some useful leaflets to share with your patients, if you are considering a referral
Referring Patients with Rapidly Deteriorating Conditions
What is AAC?
Who are Compass?

Please be aware – in order to ensure confidentiality and maintain security, we no longer accept emailed or posted referrals. Please use the Chrome browser or Internet Explorer 9 (or later) when using the online referral system.
If you are unable to refer using the online form, please call us on 020 8780 4500 ext 5965 during office hours.