Leading doctors and NHS managers in Staffordshire have ‘paused’ an engagement exercise with the public into the provision of hearing aids in order to offer council health chiefs further information, including clinical evidence to help them better understand the plans.
Four Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) – Stafford and Surrounds, Cannock Chase, East Staffordshire and South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula – announced in September they were looking at a policy implemented by North Staffordshire CCG which introduced eligibility criteria for people suffering from mild to moderate hearing loss.
Andrew Donald, Chief Officer at Cannock Chase, Stafford and Surrounds and South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula CCG, said:
“We presented our plans to start talking to our local patient populations about the policy implemented in North Staffordshire to Staffordshire County Council’s Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee.
“It was clear when North Staffordshire began to engage on the policy and again at the meeting with the select committee that the conversation around the policy is complex and something we need to introduce very clearly with specific reference to the extensive engagement done by the CCG in North Staffordshire, how we plan to build on that work locally and the clinical evidence that are the building blocks of the policy.
“With this in mind, we have agreed to pause our engagement and hold a workshop with Staffordshire County Council’s Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee to discuss the proposal further and to introduce the detail the councillors have requested to better understand the policy,” said Mr Donald.
“We are all absolutely committed to going out to our patients and local populations to discuss this policy and we will ensure plans to do that are well-publicised, well ahead of time. For now it is appropriate to pause the process in order to provide locally elected councillors with the information they have requested to support them in scrutinising any proposals we make.
“At the same time the council have offered to webcast the workshop, so the same opportunity will be made available to the people of Staffordshire, so that when the time comes to give us their views they will be as well informed of our plans and the clinical basis on which they were formulated as anyone.”
The policy was developed following the consideration of a wide range of clinical evidence by the CCG’s Clinical Priorities Advisory Group (CPAG). In addition, and as part of a comprehensive engagement process whilst developing its proposals, the CCG invited stakeholders to submit any further evidence that the CCG may not have considered, which was also reviewed by CPAG in arriving at its recommendations.
If the hearing test shows that the patient has a hearing loss which is diagnosed as moderate (41-55 decibels) and if their hearing can be shown to affect their everyday life (functional impact) they will be eligible to receive an NHS funded hearing aid.
If an individual is diagnosed with a mild hearing loss (less than 41 decibels) following an audiogram conducted by an audiologist they will not be eligible, or able to have an NHS funded hearing aid.
A hearing loss of 56 decibels or more as diagnosed by an audiologist as a result of an audiology assessment will not be affected by this policy.
The policy only affects adults aged 18 and above with age related hearing loss. It does not affect babies, children or teenagers up to 17 years of age or anyone who has worn hearing aids since childhood.
An individual who already has an NHS hearing aid is not affected by this policy until they reach the end of their three-year pathway, at which point, they would be re-assessed. If patients are re-assessed and do not meet the eligibility criteria they will not receive NHS-funded replacement hearing aids or consumables such as batteries.
These patients will not have their hearing aids taken off them even if they are assessed as no longer being eligible for replacement hearing aids.
The policy introduced by North Staffordshire, does not affect the following groups:
Patients under the age of 18
Patients with hearing loss since childhood
Patients with a confirmed diagnosis of dementia
Patients with learning disability
Patients with severe multiple sensory disability
Patients with tinnitus
Patients with auditory processing disorder
Patients with sudden onset hearing loss
In addition the policy does not include occupational hearing loss or its related legal processes.