Free, NHS hearing aids are under threat. Together, we can fight unfair restrictions across Staffordshire
Hearing aids are a lifeline to people with hearing loss and have been available free on the NHS since 1948. Hearing aids are cost-effective and have very clear clinical benefits for the people who wear them. In fact, they’re accepted to be the only viable treatment for people with adult-onset hearing loss.
What’s happening in Staffordshire
In 2015, North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) became the first part of England to restrict the provision of hearing aids, denying access to patients with mild or moderate hearing loss who would benefit from hearing aids. The decision was made in the face of the overwhelming evidence that hearing aids are clinically effective and cost effective for the NHS.
We’ve campaigned against this unfair restriction, but despite your support and our best efforts, North Staffordshire CCG continues to refuse to provide hearing aids for many people who should have them.
There are 5 other CCGs, the organisations that buy NHS services for the patients in their areas, across the county of Staffordshire, none of which have imposed restrictions on the provision of hearing aids – yet.
These CCGs are:
- Stafford and Surrounds
- Cannock Chase
- East Staffordshire
- South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula.
These CCGs are merging and will therefore seek to take on a single policy for the provision of hearing aids.
Between January and March 2020, the CCGs ran a ‘listening exercise’ called Difficult Decisions. This was to understand what local people thought about the provision of services across Staffordshire. Hearing loss was one of 5 issues covered. The CCGs ran a survey and hosted a number of events to talk to people. Hundreds of people in the local area responded to the survey or attended the events.
In September and October 2021, they ran a second Difficult Decisions ‘listening exercise’ to find out if public opinion has changed because of changes to the way the NHS has been able to deliver services and see patients caused by the pandemic.
We encouraged our communities in the local area to take part, to show the CCGs why you value your hearing aids, and why they should be available on the NHS to all that need them.
Thank you to everyone who took part.
What we do next will depend on how the CCGs react to the public response to their proposals.
As we receive updates about the situation in North Staffordshire we will share them here, through our social media channels and to our mailing lists.
What we’ve achieved so far
With your help, we made a minor step forward following the listening exercise in January 2020. in January 2021, when North Staffordshire CCG announced that they would end the restrictions for people with moderate hearing loss. This was as a result of the response to the Difficult Decisions listening exercise.
The summary stated:
“Service users highlighted that accessing hearing aids is important as it improves hearing, patient social life, wellbeing, and quality of life. Concerns over the lack of access were also raised. The key themes raised tended to be in support of funding the service for all patients.”
However, North Staffordshire CCG still refuses to provide hearing aids to most patients who have mild hearing loss.
Why hearing aids should be provided to people with mild hearing loss
There’s clear and comprehensive evidence of the clinical benefits of hearing aids for people with mild hearing loss. For people with mild hearing loss, studies have shown that hearing aids improve:
- social participation and overall health
and that they reduce depression and anxiety.
In June 2018, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the Government’s expert body that provides guidance and advice on the cost effectiveness of treatments – which CCGs are meant to adhere to -recommended that hearing aids are provided to all adults whose hearing loss effects their ability to communicate. North Staffordshire’s policy directly contradicts this.
There’s also growing evidence linking the provision of hearing aids to the prevention of other conditions, including depression and cognitive decline which, if untreated, can lead to dementia.
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