Staffordshire health commissioners are to await the report of the Hearing Loss Commissioning Guidance Advisory Group which is due to be published before making any changes to hearing loss services across the south and east of the region.
The Clinical Commissioning Groups of South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula, Cannock Chase, East Staffordshire and Stafford and Surrounds made the decision after the recent Audiology Inquiry Day on 25 November 2015 which was led by the Staffordshire Select Committee.
The Inquiry brought together the Clinical Commissioning Groups, hearing loss charities, expert witnesses, and local service users. The workshop was held amid public concerns that the original proposals would have led to restrictions on free NHS hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Andrew Donald, Accountable Officer at Stafford and Surrounds CCG, said: “We have recognised the strength of feeling generated by the proposal to introduce eligibility criteria for access to the provision of NHS hearing aids.
“This was expressed both on the day and through the contact we have had with local people and we do not believe there is any value in proceeding to a full consultation exercise.
“I hope people will be reassured that the South Staffordshire CCGs are listening to public feedback and have acted swiftly on the evidence presented.”
Mr Donald added that current services would continue until September 2016, when a full re-procurement of hearing loss services will take place. By this date the national Hearing Loss Advisory Group should have produced new guidance for commissioners on the implementation of its Hearing Loss Action Plan, and in the meantime the CCGs would be working with clinical colleagues, charities and experts about improving the current services. However, he added that the CCGs still had to make essential savings and if money could not be found from the audiology service it would have to be found elsewhere.
Mr Donald said that the prioritisation of services would be a key part of the future work of clinical commissioning groups, with priority given to focusing on treatments offering the best outcomes for patients.