NHS hearing aid service providers met health chiefs in Nelson, Lancashire this week to learn about new arrangements for the commissioning (buying) of NHS hearing aids services in Lancashire and South Cumbria.
The event, organised by NHS Blackburn with Darwen CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) was run an behalf of all CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) across Lancashire and South Cumbria who are working together to re-procure (buy) hearing aid services for age-related hearing loss for those aged 50 years and over.
Dr Santhosh Davis, Burnley GP and GP lead for the hearing aid service procurement said:“Hearing is a sense that should be cherished. It’s a sad fact of life that as we grow older, our hearing can deteriorate and we can be at risk of becoming socially isolated and lonely. An ageing population means that demand for both hearing assessment and treatment services, including hearing aids, is likely to rise substantially in the future. Our vision for people with age-related hearing problems is for them to receive, high quality, efficient hearing services delivered closer to home, with short waiting times that are highly responsive to their needs. The service will be free at the point of access.”
“We undertook a considerable amount of engagement with patients, and service providers to understand existing services and to produce a service specification that truly meets the needs of patients. We met with service providers to invite them to bid for this service and to learn more about what we as commissioners, and our patients expect.”
East Lancashire resident, Mr Stephen Finn, is a patient representative on the Lancashire Audiology Leadership Team and along with Miss Lesley Jackson, also of East Lancashire, has helped the CCGs to engage with the public and to coproduce the service specification.
The CCGs conducted a survey of people who use NHS hearing aids last year, and found that there was room for some improvements in hearing aid services. People said that they wanted more support, more information and better aftercare when they received an NHS hearing aid. CCGs have used this information to ensure that NHS hearing aid service users will get this additional support.
In a film which was shown at the event, Mr Finn talked about the challenges of hearing loss and why it is so important for people to have a hearing test, and use hearing aids if they need them. He said: “People don’t realise that hearing loss is only one part of the problem. The more you suffer from hearing loss, the more you isolate yourself and over a period of time people can become lonely, and depressed. It’s very easy to put up with hearing loss, and perhaps avoid going to have a hearing check because you think you can cope. But it does worsen as you get older, and it’s definitely worth having a hearing test. If you need a hearing aid, use it, learn how to live with it and obtain the support and after care that you should have, once prescribed a hearing aid.”
Mr Finn is now working with NHS services and commissioners to help produce a patient information pack for anyone who uses NHS hearing aids:
“What we found when we conducted our survey of hearing aid users is that people want more understandable and clearly written information to help them use and care for their hearing aid. People also want to understand what they can expect from an NHS hearing service and what their responsibilities as a hearing aid user are too. NHS hearing aids can be straight forward to use and they definitely can transform your life if you have lost your hearing.”