North Staffordshire CCG introduces policy restricting access to NHS hearing aids
On 1 October 2015 North Staffordshire CCG brought into force its policy to end hearing aid provision for people with mild hearing loss. It also approved plans obliging people with moderate hearing loss to complete a questionnaire about their hearing loss to assess their eligibility for hearing aids. Full details of the policy can be found in the CCG’s board papers from the meeting in March where the CCG Governing Board approved the proposals (see the papers from 4 March 2015, pages 47-53).
One year on policy review
North Staffordshire CCG promised to bring back a review of the outcomes of the policy and the impact on health and wellbeing within 12 months, but at the Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee meeting on 7th November 2016, the paper that was presented did not discuss the impact of the policy and completely overlooked the opposition from local people and professionals during the consultation process, as well as once again failing to acknowledge key pieces of evidence.
The Healthy Staffordshire Committee voted unanimously to refer the CCG’s policy to the Secretary of State for Health to be investigated further, and we are awaiting the results of the letter the committee sent.
What has the reaction been?
We acted quickly to condemn the move, and urged the Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee, the county-wide scrutiny body which rejected the CCG’s initial proposals in September 2014, to do the same.
On 24 March 2015, the Committee expressed their disappointment that the CCG approved the proposals without consulting them and resolved to call the CCG before them at a future meeting to give further explanation of their decision. At this meeting on 8 June 2015, following almost two hours of debate, the Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee voted nine to eight in favour of a motion to accept the CCG’s proposals, and to review the impact of the policy a year after it comes into force. We were hugely disappointed with this outcome.
However, we continued to fight the CCG’s damaging policy, launching a petition calling on Staffordshire County Council to do everything in its power to stop cuts to NHS hearing services across Staffordshire. We received a huge response, and with almost 6,000 signatures, the petition triggered a full County Council debate.
At this meeting of the Staffordshire County Council on 8 October 2015 our Chief Executive, Paul Breckell, introduced the petition with a speech detailing the flawed consultation process of the CCG, and its failure to properly account for the clear clinical evidence of the benefits of hearing aids or the needs and views of local people. Following this speech, the cuts were debated by Councillors, before a vote was taken in which the Council voted decisively to support the petition and write to the CCG underlining the public opposition to the cuts and condemning the impact of their policy on local residents.
On 25 November 2015, Staffordshire Council's Health Select Committee held a public Inquiry Day on hearing aid provision, prompted by the strong local opposition to the cuts in North Staffordshire and the proposed cuts in South Staffordshire.
While North Staffordshire CCG was not directly involved in the event, representatives of the South Staffordshire CCGs – proposing to mirror the cuts in North Staffordshrie – did present at the Inquiry Day. These representatives signalled a willingness from the CCGs to look at the issue objectively, and committee members expressed concern at the lack of clarity around the evidence that they were presenting.
In contrast, the afternoon session saw an impassioned use of evidence from a range of stakeholders including local people, local charities, national charities, professional groups and ENT consultants - united in their belief in the clinical benefits of hearing aids. We are hopeful following this event that the South Staffordshire CCGs will drop their plans to consult on their proposals, which they paused ahead of the Inquiry Day. This would further signal the fact that there is no evidence to support cutting the provision of NHS hearing aids.
The campaign so far
In September 2014 the CCG’s original proposals of an outright restriction of hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing loss were heard before a number of influential local council committees. We ensured that councillors were aware of the importance of hearing aid provision and strength of feeling on this issue, and welcomed the fact that all of the committees voted to oppose the cuts.
In November 2014 we organised a peaceful demonstration outside the CCG board meeting to reiterate the strength of public opposition to the proposals and in December we officially handed in our national petition – signed by over 6500 people – to the CCG, demanding that they reconsider the proposed cuts. Alongside the petition signatures we presented the CCG with a giant Christmas card on behalf of everyone named in the petition, with the message ‘All We Want For Christmas Is Hearing Aids’.
An overwhelming public response
In our national petition we asked people why hearing aids are important to them. Over 4000 people shared their experiences and we've published a powerful collection of their stories in our appeal to North Staffordshire CCG(pdf 3.16mb, opens in new window)
People with mild or moderate hearing loss told us that hearing aids are a lifeline, transforming their lives, allowing them to communicate with family and friends, and enabling them to thrive in the workplace. They also shared their concerns about what would've happened if they'd been forced to wait for hearing aids, their fears of what life would be like without them, and the high costs that would make accessing hearing aids privately impossible.
Download our appeal to the CCG(pdf 3.16mb, opens in new window)
Our formal response
We submitted our full consultation response to the CCG at the end of July. It outlines the comprehensive evidence of the clinical benefits of hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Download our formal response to the CCG(pdf 388kb, opens in new window)
Find out more
Go to our main campaign page to find out more about what we've been doing to fight the cuts.