Hearing Loss Care affected by increase in demand

Hearing Loss Care affected by increase in demand

Health boards across the UK are struggling to cope with the ever growing demand for hearing loss related services. In recent years there has been a huge increase in the amount of over 60 year olds who are suffering from hearing loss. It is estimated that (55%) are currently affected and this level is expected to increase dramatically in coming years.

Action on Hearing Loss discovered the findings in their recent report “Under Pressure”. The charity used the freedom of information requests to gather information about the NHS audiology services. In both Scotland and Wales it was reported that waiting times were gradually increasing and in two areas patients were not always provided two hearing aids because there is a restriction on how many can be issued out. Certain audiologist departments will also be completely cutting the follow-up appointments meaning the patients will be without the proper assistance regarding their hearing aids.

The reasoning for the drop in care is noted in the report as having many factors with the most major being the every growing budget cuts hitting the NHS. It is noted that one in six providers (16%) have been hit by budget cuts which has had severe consequences when there is already an ever growing demand.

A major cause for concern is that one of Action on Hearing Loss’s key programs “Hear to Help”, which provides assistance to people with hearing aids, such as maintenance is facing closure in March due to a lack of funding. This is not only going to effect the care people with hearing loss are receiving but it will have cause issues within the NHS as the people originally provided care by the charity seek help elsewhere.

Action on Hearing Loss is calling on the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence and the government to protect the hearing loss service provided by the NHS. This would means national quality standards would be implemented and NHS providers would have the ability to provide the proper care to people who are suffering from hearing loss in the UK. To read the report or help the charities plea more information can be found using the following link. http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/underpressure.

Paul Breckell, Action on Hearing Loss’s Chief Executive commented with the following

Making short-term savings by reducing the quality and availability of life-changing hearing services is a false economy that will lead to higher NHS and social care costs in the long run. The personal cost of these cuts could be even higher for the one in six people affected, with untreated hearing loss leading to social isolation, unemployment and dementia amongst other health conditions. Rather than a postcode lottery of care, we need a forward-thinking plan that will enable frontline staff to deliver every patient the advice and support that they have the right to expect from our NHS”.

Delia Henry, director of Action on Hearing Loss Scotland commented

It is important that patients do not suffer a reduced quality of service due to increases in demand on audiology departments but the closure of community-based services delivered by third sector volunteers, like our Hear to Help projects, will impact greatly on the numbers of patients with hearing loss seeking appointments at hospital for very basic hearing aid support.

Reducing the availability of easily accessible hearing aid services in their communities will not only produce massive barriers for many older people with hearing loss who are housebound or have mobility difficulties to continue getting the support that they need, but is also a false economy that will only lead to higher NHS and social care costs in the long run.

[1] “Health boards struggling with deaf and hearing loss demand”, BBC News, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-30960826
[2] “Warning over hearing loss care”, The Courier Online, http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/health/warning-over-hearing-loss-care-1.806756
[3] “NHS postcode lottery of care for 10 million hard of hearing”, Steve Taggart, The London Economic, http://www.thelondoneconomic.com/2015/01/26/nhs-postcode-lottery-care-10-million-hard-hearing/