The British Academy of Audiology (BAA) has announced that North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), a local health authority in the United Kingdom, will be making hearing aid cuts through a new commissioning contract.
As previously reported in a June 9, 2014 article in The Hearing Review, a new regulation denies free hearing aids or follow-up care to thousands of people with hearing loss who are currently covered by the country’s National Health Service (NHS). According to a September 30, 2015 article in The Guardian, under the new regulation, those people diagnosed with “mild” hearing loss will be denied NHS-provided hearing aids until their hearing loss qualifies for the “severe loss” category. The article noted that the CCG says the new restrictions are necessary to help it save money, and the cuts will save it about £200,000 in the first year.
Alison Walsh, the 2014-15 president of the BAA, recently posted a statement on her web page and also wrote a letter to Dr Mark Shapley, the clinical chair of the North Staffordshire CCG, addressing the issue. In her post and letter, Walsh recounts the criticisms of the new regulation which have been put forth by the BAA and the Hearing Loss Alliance in an effort to oppose the new hearing aid cuts, effective October 1, 2015. Walsh’s post includes a comment from a local audiologist, which sums up how she and her counterparts view the new regulation:
“It will be very difficult for patients to accept (if they don’t fit the criteria) that they are no longer eligible for hearing aids. Likewise, it will be hard and demoralizing for our staff to, in effect, ‘withdraw care’ from patients. We won’t physically be taking the hearing aids off the patient. We have agreed that the hearing aid will be reprogrammed to the up-to-date hearing test. However, we will have to take away the battery book to protect our budget and inform the patient that they are no longer eligible to receive any further aftercare. For example, if their hearing aid were to malfunction, we could not replace it. Very sad times.”
Walsh anticipates that this rationing of hearing aids “is going to affect the people most vulnerable in our society, remove the ability to communicate for many hundreds of people, and common sense alone tells us that will add to the cost of healthcare going forward.”
Walsh reports that she will be issuing the following motion at conference, and urges others to send BAA an email pledging support.
“We call on NHS England to intervene and overturn North Staffordshire CCG’s hearing aid cuts, which are against professional opinion and clinical evidence, and will leave thousands of local people less able to communicate.”
Source: British Academy of Audiology (BAA); Action on Hearing Loss
Photo credits: BAA; Action on Hearing Loss