1 October 2017
The first ever rationing of free hearing aids on the NHS comes into force in North Staffordshire today, with the rest of Staffordshire planning to mirror the cuts over the coming months.
Despite costing the NHS only £90 per hearing aid, as of 1 October most people who need hearing aids in North Staffordshire will no longer get them – people with mild hearing loss are no longer eligible for free hearing aids, even if they’ve had them before, while those with moderate hearing loss will be required to meet additional criteria in order to receive them.
The charity Action on Hearing Loss, with support from local and national deaf organisations and audiology professionals, has spent the last 15 months campaigning to reverse the decision made by the North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to cut hearing aids for most people who need them. Over 5,000 Staffordshire residents have signed a petition calling for the cuts to be stopped.
Paul Breckell, Chief Executive of charity Action on Hearing Loss says: ‘Today sees people with hearing loss bearing the brunt of NHS rationing, with the first ever cuts to free hearing aid services on the NHS. It is a very sad day for the people in North Staffordshire who would benefit from them. The cuts run contrary to the robust independent evidence which shows the importance of hearing aids, and the views of local people who tell us that hearing aids can be life-changing.
‘Not only will new patients who’ve just started to confront their hearing loss be denied access to the only treatment available, many who have already been relying on hearing aids but who now need new ones will not get them. We’ll continue to fight against these ill-thought through, baffling and unprecedented cuts which see the first rationing of NHS services for hearing loss.’
Kathleen Hill, 72, from Kidderminster said: ‘I have mild to moderate hearing loss in both ears and I was considering withdrawing from social activities before taking the plunge and having my hearing tested several years ago: the effort of trying to participate in conversations with other people was just too great. It is no exaggeration to say that my NHS hearing aids have transformed my life and I am passionately opposed to any withdrawal of hearing aid services for people such as me who would be condemned to living in isolation whether on their own or in company.
‘It’s why I attended a protest last year organised by Action on Hearing Loss against the CCG’s proposals to cut NHS hearing aid provision – it’s something that means a lot to me. I said to them – please, please, don’t withdraw these lifelines.’
A further five CCGs in Staffordshire, NHS Cannock Chase, East Staffordshire, Stafford and Surrounds, South East Staffs and Seisdon and Peninsular and Stoke-on-Trent are proposing to follow in the steps of the North Staffordshire CCG, meaning that the cuts could affect over 184,000 people in total.
Additional text for local press release only
Action on Hearing Loss is urging local people to attend Staffordshire County Council on Thursday 8 October at 10am at Council Chamber, County Buildings, Stafford, ST16 2LH in its public gallery, to witness Action on Hearing Loss’ chief executive Paul Breckell hand in over a 5000-strong petition against the cuts, before addressing the councillors himself. To help fight against the cuts, the public can get involved themselves by contacting their local MP and Councillors.
For more information on how to help Action on Hearing Loss, please visit Hands off our hearing aids.
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Notes to editors
Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) is the national charity helping people living with deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. Action on Hearing Loss enables them to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way, giving people support and care, developing technology and treatments, and campaigning for equality.