Hearing aids can provide a lifeline to the 9 million people affected by hearing loss in England. Our report scrutinises NHS hearing aid services. We wanted to identify where they are performing well, where they need to improve, and whether the commissioning arrangements are fit for purpose.
- Lack of accountability: the most dramatic finding of the report is that Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the bodies responsible for paying for NHS services, are currently ill-equipped to do their job. Shockingly, over nine out of ten (95%) of CCGs lacked at least one of the bare minimum pieces of information needed to commission effective audiology services.
- Low rates of access: fewer than one in five (19%) of adults with hearing loss accessed an NHS audiology service within the last three years.
- Failures to adhere to national guidance: considerable national guidance exists setting out best practice for delivering audiology services, including NICE guidance. Unfortunately, three out of five (59%) of CCGs lack any kind of policy for implementing the guidance.
- The future of hearing aid technology: the report also highlights the emergence of new technology (such as remote fitting or even self-fitting of hearing aids) that could improve service efficiency, boost access rates, and improve patient experience.
Based on these recommendations, we call for:
- the consistent collection of data
- that CCGs and NHS England should make improving access to hearing aid services a priority
- adherence to national guidance such as NICE
- a trial to explore the integration of new audiology technology into NHS services.
Protect your local audiology department and contact your MP now about these crucial findings.