IMPORTANT UPDATE – North Staffordshire CGC Proposals for Individuals Requiring Hearing Aids With Mild/Moderate Hearing Loss

The BSA is responding to proposals by the North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that if implemented would see decommissioning of hearing aid services for patients with mild and moderate hearing loss – http://www.northstaffsccg.nhs.uk/hearing-aids.

The BSA recognises that the outcome may have repercussions beyond the local area. We are coordinating our questions and submissions to the CCG with other interested groups and have participated in a letter from the Hearing Loss and Deafness Alliance to the relevant Minister Norman Lamb {link to letter – see email attachment}.

Update: From Council member John Day who represented the BSA at an engagement event organised by the CCG on 2nd July at Leek, Staffordshire:

This event appeared to follow the same format as one held on 25th July. There were around 60+ people present including service users, local Audiologists, and stakeholder groups from the third sector and professional bodies. There were a couple of introductory presentations during which the speakers were challenged repeatedly (and heatedly) with questions from patients and third parties, but were keen to deflect to the follow up smaller group sessions. This then occurred with 6 or so round tables each chaired by a CCG person. At my table the CCG rep(incidentally, chair of the Group that performed the prioritisation exercise) was keen to state that the focus of the event was to seek service user views – those I heard were emotional, articulate and highly supportive of the need for hearing aids services to continue (ie, against proposal). Service users appreciated that professionals were present to support them. Audiology professionals also clearly articulated the impact of hearing loss and benefit of hearing aids that they see on a daily basis, this included but was not limited to: benefits of early amplification (of course compromised by not amplifying mild/moderate losses), wider impacts on individual, family and society, impact on those with tinnitus and association of hearing loss with dementia. The CCG was interested in alternatives to hearing aids (eg lip-reading, counselling and advice) – the response provided was that such interventions would normally be an adjunct to hearing aid fitting rather than be alternatives.

We then reconvened for the CCG to close the event and there were lots of pacifying words about the willingness of the CCG to listen – although for the sake of hearing impaired people in their area perhaps the key issue is whether the CCG will act on what they hear. The CCG also released information on the evidence base that informed the proposal and the overall score achieved against their prioritisation framework.

We have already posed questions (early in June) in order to learn more about the decision making process, specifically the scoring against individual factors/criteria within the prioritisation framework. To date answers have not been provided and we will likely need to submit questions through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request that will oblige a response. It is unfortunate that the CCG has not responded to these reasonable questions. We have explained that answers to these questions would allow the BSA to help the CCG in its decision-making process including interpretation of the evidence-base. We believe that the BSA is well placed to offer a range of expert advice from across the Audiology academic/research area and from a range of clinical professionals.

The event did not provide the opportunity to examine the evidence base that the CCG has used (material was only circulated electronically at the end of the event) or scrutinise the interpretation of that data. Following discussion with colleagues from other stakeholder groups and with a CCG representative it is anticipated that a meeting will now be arranged to discuss the technical issues where the stakeholder groups can collectively provide the necessary challenge and expert input.

The BSA also plans to make a separate detailed and considered submission before a deadline set by the CCG at the end of July. I would be happy to hear views from BSA members, particularly others who attended the engagement events – please email John.Day@wales.nhs.uk

View the Letter from Hearing Loss and Deafness Alliance to Norman Lamb