UK hearing loss charity Hearing Link is urging adults who have used NHS hearing care services to get hearing aids or other support to make their views known about the quality of the service they received.
Health service regulator Monitor has launched a full review into how well the hearing care service model is working, with particular focus on whether the introduction of the Any Qualified Provider (AQP) model has improved the situation, and whether further improvements are needed.
Currently, around half of the health regions in England have adopted the AQP model, and adults who consult their GP about their hearing should be offered a choice of who provides their hearing services from a list of qualified providers.
The providers in any given region may include the local hospital audiology department, a high-street clinic, and a small number of other providers including charities. In regions that have not adopted AQP for adult hearing services, patients are usually referred into hospital departments.
In theory, patients in an AQP region have a wider choice of providers, and they have the final say in the decision about where they will be assessed for hearing aids.
However in practice, often they are not fully aware that they can make a choice, and if they are, they do not feel equipped with enough knowledge or information to enable them to make the best choice for them.
They would want to base their decision on things like waiting times, customer service and accessibility, but this information is not always readily available.
Dr Lorraine Gailey, Chief Executive of Hearing Link, said: “While it is incredibly important that adults with hearing loss have a choice in who provides their hearing services; Hearing Link’s experience of this process is that there is still much room for improvement in this area.
“In the past there has been a lack of education to advise service users of the implications of the choices and decisions they are making. However, the only way to gauge a full view of how well this process has worked, and is working for patients, is for them to feedback their experiences and views.
“It is therefore highly encouraging that Monitor has commenced this comprehensive review of how hearing care is provided in England, from the point of view of everyone concerned including patients, GPs, service providers, and commissioners.
“I would strongly urge every adult who has accessed hearing services in the last few years to feed their views in to Monitor and help shape the way in which hearing services will delivered in the future.
“Your views can be offered online at https://www.research.net/s/X2KVFGZ , or via a paper survey available from Monitor or through Hearing Link. Responses must be submitted by Thursday 4th September.”
For further information or to download a paper version of response form, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/nhs-adult-hearing-services-in-england-how-any-qualified-provider-is-working-for-patients.
The findings of the review will be published in December 2014.
If you would like information and support about hearing loss, contact Hearing Link’s Helpdesk by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel/Text: 0300 111 1113 or SMS: 07526 123255.
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