NHS cuts to hearing services is a 'false economy'
- 24 Oct
Data obtained by Action on Hearing Loss from 128 hospitals found 43% had seen cuts in the past 18 months.
The report is the latest in a growing number to have suggested front-line care is being rationed as the health service struggles with finances.
Action on Hearing Loss asked all 135 hospitals with audiology units to reveal the impact that NHS cuts are having on the quality of hearing services across the country.
In total 128 replied, with 43% reporting some kind of cut.
Reduced budgets have caused:16% of Trusts to reduce their follow-up appointments;15% to experience an increase in waiting times;8% to reduce the number of specialist staff for complex cases;and one Trust to decommission its hearing therapy.
The report also found evidence of trusts starting to provide only one hearing aid when two had been judged to be clinically necessary; two Trustshad to change their policies on bilateral hearing aids and four Trusts say their policies to routinely provide bilateral hearing aids when clinically appropriate is threatened by financial pressures.
Action on Hearing Loss say it is vital that people with hearing loss have full access to follow-up appointments and wider support services.
They find that failure to provide follow-up appointments can result in many people struggling to adapt to their hearing aids and leaving them in a drawer, causing continued unnecessary isolation from friends and family, and even depression.
In the long-term, a failure to meet the individual needs of people with hearing loss will lead to higher NHS and social care costs.
Chief Executive for Action on Hearing Loss, Paul Breckell, says:
People with hearing loss have the right to expect the very best local services so it’s concerning that so many audiology departments have already felt the impact of budget cuts.
With managing budgets becoming increasingly challenging, it’s vital that NHS Trusts and audiologists work together in innovative ways to ensure that the right resources are available at the right time to improve efficiency – but not at the cost of reducing the quality of essential life-changing hearing services.
Making savings from hearing service cuts right now is a false economy because it will only lead to higher NHS and social care costs to support people with untreated hearing loss in the long run
Health Minister Lord Howe said that the latest figures show 98% of patients were being treated within the official target for waiting of 18 weeks, however:
It is important that patients get high quality audiology services.
We are working with stakeholders, including Action on Hearing Loss, to set out what needs to be done in the future to improve results for hearing loss in adults and children.
Image source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1032418
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