Select Committee on Health Written Evidence

Evidence submitted by the Wirral Health Forum (AUDIO 44)

  1.  The Wirral Health Forum (PPI) have been very concerned about the excessively long waiting times those patients requiring hearing aids (either as a new user or those needing a replacement of their older analogy aid with a new superior digital aid) have to suffer—up to two years—and the following evidence is based on our findings over the past 12 months.

  2.  The Forum believes that the current NHS waiting lists do not represent true numbers, because some people are "put off" seeking a new style aid because of the long waiting lists and because some patients have chosen the spend their own money on buying a privately provided (inferior) aid.

  3.  Audiology services should, in future, be included in the Health Service Targets as their current exclusion from these statistics is a major reason why these services waiting lists' are excessive compared to other medical services.

  4.  Currently the NHS does have the capacity to meet the patients needs because of a large and temporary increase in the number of patients (ie those seeking to have their analogy aid replaced with a superior digital one) and because staffing levels are inadequate as there is a national shortage of qualified audiologists and under funding.

  5.  Not enough new audiologist are being trained and it takes too long (up to four years) to fully train individuals. The Forum would suggest that the Committee request that the training bodies be asked to consider reducing the length of training and seek to introduce a new level of operative—at a technician level—who could undertake the more routine procedures.

  6.  As the NHS cannot meet current needs. As much of this is temporary (ie caused because patients are requiring a "one off" replacement digital aid) it would seem sensible to engage private sector assistance as a temporary measure.

  7.  Additional funding could be used to reduce the burden of administrative duties on audiologists (ie to employ clerical staff in order to release the time of qualified personnel), to improve communications between doctors and service providers, up-grade telephone services, open centres in evenings and at weekends (by paying overtime), replace staff reporting sick though pressure of work and to ensure that any cancelled appointments are always recycled.

Robin Eley Jones

Chairman—Wirral Health Forum (PPI)

March 2007

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