NHS urged to avoid false economy of hearing service cuts

Published on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 09:17
Posted by Scott Buckler

We're urging NHS commissioners and budget managers across England to protect people with hearing loss from the false economy of cuts to life-changing hearing services, following research by the charity which discovered 43% of adult services have been affected by budgetary pressures

In a report entitled 'Cut off', the charity uses data gathered via Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from heads of audiology at 128 NHS Trusts to reveal the impact that cuts are having on the quality of hearing services across the country.

Our research found that 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; two Trusts to change their policies on bilateral hearing aids; and one Trust to decommission its hearing therapy. Four Trusts say their policies to routinely provide bilateral hearing aids when clinically appropriate is threatened by financial pressures.

It is vital that people with hearing loss have full access to follow-up appointments and wider support services. 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."

Source: ©Action on Hearing Loss

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