CALL TO ACTION: North Staffs Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Board Approves Eligibility (Rationing) Criteria for Adult Hearing Aids

North Staffs Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Board Approves Eligibility (Rationing) Criteria for Adult Hearing Aids.

In Summer 2014 The CCG made public proposals to limit eligibility for hearing aid provision. They subsequently consulted and announced that the decision would be deferred to 2015. On Wednesday 4th March a revised proposal was presented to their Board and approved. If implemented this will result in the hearing aids not being routinely provided for patients who are diagnosed with a mild hearing loss, based upon audiometric criteria. Additionally, those patients with hearing loss diagnosed as moderate AND with a functional score below a specified level (using the HHIE-S questionnaire tool) will not be eligible for hearing aid provision. There are some exclusions to this rule for defined complex patient groups.

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It is with some irony that Monitor (the sector regulator for health services in England) released a report this week on ‘NHS Adult Hearing Services in England’. The following is an extract from P14 of that report:

‘What is the prevalence and impact of hearing loss? ……..

Hearing loss can lead to communication difficulties, social isolation, and emotional distress and can significantly adversely affect a person’s quality of life. This appears to affect not only the person with hearing loss, but also those around them such as their partner, family and/or carer.

Hearing loss also increases the risk of mental health problems, including depression. It is strongly associated with an increased rate of cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia. There is evidence to suggest that people with mild hearing loss are almost twice as likely to develop dementia. The risk for people with moderate hearing loss is three times higher, and for people with severe hearing loss it is almost five times higher.

Prevention and early diagnosis of hearing loss can significantly reduce the impacts of hearing loss, including social isolation and mental ill health.

Hearing loss can also reduce a person’s ability to manage other health conditions independently. About half of older people in the UK with hearing loss have additional disabilities or long-term health conditions.

In addition to increasing use of health and social care services, hearing loss can increase unemployment and sick leave rates, and limit opportunities for career progression. The International Longevity Centre UK estimated that, in 2013, due to lower employment rates for those with hearing loss than across the rest of the population, the UK economy lost £24.8 billion in potential economic output.’

The BSA and other stakeholder groups are greatly concerned with the outcomes of the proposed rationing for hearing impaired people who will be denied access to a cost effective intervention – this at odds with the content of the Monitor report and a substantial scientific evidence base. We are also concerned at the process leading to the decision taken by the CCG.

Paul Breckell (Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss) has written a formal letter of complaint to Norman Lamb MP (Minister of State for Care and Support). See Letter to Norman Lamb MP letter 5 March 2015

The BSA will be responding shortly.

John Day
BSA Trustee