However the provision of NHS hearing aids is under threat and we need your help to fight the restriction of NHS hearing aids across Staffordshire.
What’s the current situation?
In 2015 North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) became the first part of England to restrict the provision of hearing aids, denying access to patients with a mild and or moderate hearing loss who would benefit from hearing aids. The decision was made in the face of the overwhelming evidence which shows that hearing aids are clinically effective and cost effective for the NHS.
Under the current policy implemented by North Staffordshire CCG:
• NHS hearing aids are not routinely available to adult patients with a mild hearing loss
• These patients are still be eligible for free NHS hearing tests, although no other treatment is available
• Adults with a moderate hearing loss are subject to unjustified restrictions based on a hearing loss questionnaire – which should not be used to decide hearing aid eligibility, so many people who could benefit from hearing aids are denied access
• The other five CCGs provide hearing aids on the basis of need and do not restrict their provision - following all the medical evidence and national guidance on hearing loss.
WWe have campaigned against this unfair restriction, but despite your support and our best efforts North Staffordshire CCG continues to restrict the provision of hearing aids.
There are five other CCGs providing healthcare across the county of Staffordshire, none of which have imposed restrictions on the provision of hearing aids - yet. They are:
• Stafford and Surrounds
• Cannock Chase
• East Staffordshire
• South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula
The six Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the organisation that buy NHS services for the patients in their areas, across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are currently talking to local residents on the provision of five treatments and services, including those for adult patients with hearing loss. The six are holding public events and providing a survey to allow local people to give their view on how the CCGs align their policies. This means that there is now a threat to the provision of NHS hearing aids across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
What are the CCGs saying about hearing aids?
The CCG is currently reviewing its policy on hearing aids and could impose restrictions. The current policy in North Staffordshire affects those with a hearing loss between 20-55db – this is described as mild-to-moderate hearing loss but does not reflect the difficulty that they may have. Someone with this level of hearing loss is likely to have difficulty following conversations against even a low level of background noise without hearing aids and the worse the hearing loss is within this range the more difficulty the individual is likely to have.
Why should the CCGs provide hearing aids?
There is clear and comprehensive evidence of the clinical benefits of providing hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. For people with mild or moderate hearing loss, studies have shown that hearing aids improve communication, relationships, self-confidence, social participation and overall health, and that they reduce depression and anxiety.
In June 2018 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which is the Government’s expert body providing guidance and advice on the cost effectiveness of treatments – which CCGs are meant to adhere to – has recommended that hearing aids are provided to all adults whose hearing loss effects their ability to communicate. North Staffordshire’s policy directly contradicts this guidance.
There is also a growing body of evidence linking the provision of hearing aids to the prevention of other conditions, including depression and cognitive decline which, if untreated, can lead to dementia.
What can I do?
If you live in Staffordshire then we need you to take the survey and make the CCGs across Staffordshire know just how much you value hearing aids. The survey can be accessed via https://www.staffordsurroundsccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/consultation-and-engagement/difficult-decisions
If you’d like a pdf copy of the survey then please just contact us via email@example.com
We have serious reservations about the way in which the CCGs are engaging with local people. The way that the CCG has presented the evidence in its document fails to reflect the benefit that patients get from the use of hearing aids. This is why it’s crucial that you demonstrate the value of your hearing aids and the impact they have on your day-to-day life.
If you don’t live in Staffordshire then this survey isn’t for you, although if you have family or friends in the area who will be affected then please do make them aware. However we do appreciate your support and if you want further information on our campaigns you can sign up to our Campaigns Network.
What should I cover in my response?
Please find some pointers for writing an effective response below:
• If you or someone you know has mild to moderate hearing loss, describe the benefits of wearing hearing aids. What does wearing hearing aids allow you to do? What would your life be like without hearing aids?
• Describe the impact that withdrawal of free NHS hearing aids would have, or has had if you have already been effected by North Staffordshire. For example, would it lead to difficulties at work or isolation? Would private hearing aids be unaffordable?
• Make it clear that you do not support restrictions to NHS hearing aids – say that hearing aids should be funded by the CCGs.
We would really appreciate it if you would share your consultation response with us by emailing the text of your response to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When is the deadline?
Responses need to be submitted by 11:59pm 1st March 2020.
What else can I do?
What we do next will depend on how the CCGs react to the public response to their proposals, which is why it’s so important to tell them your views now. If you would like to be kept updated on the fight to defend NHS hearing aids, and our other campaigning work, then you can sign up to our Campaigns Network
How else can I get involved?
Action on Hearing Loss are running an event with representatives from the CCG for you to have your say on the future of hearing aids in Staffordshire. It will be on Wednesday 26 February 2020, 10.30am, at the Trinity Methodist Church, Derby Street in Leek, ST13 5JF. Please contact Gill Wyatt, Gillian.Wyatt@hearingloss.org.uk for any specific communication requirements, there will be a loop system available. Refreshments will be provided.
In addition DEAFvibe are running a separate session where a representative from the CCGs will be attending the café to seek the views from deaf, hard of hearing, deafened or deafblind people. This session will take part on Saturday 8 February 2020 from 10.30am, Main Hall, Bradwell Lodge Community Centre, Bradwell Lane, Porthill, Newcastle, ST5 8PS. BSL Interpreters, Electronic Notetaker and Loop system will be available on the day.