New digital hearing aid

One of the busiest NHS hospitals is taking action to end uncertainty for hundreds of people who have referred themselves for a new digital hearing aid.

One of the busiest NHS hospitals is taking action to end uncertainty for hundreds of people who have referred themselves for a new digital hearing aid.

Almost 1,600 people have contacted The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust to request that their current analogue hearing aid is replaced with a new digital hearing aid.

"Demand for digital hearing aids has been unprecedented," explained Judy Wright, Associate Director at the Trust. The demand has been created by the introduction of new digital hearing aids rather than a sudden surge in the number of people with hearing problems.

"Despite the substantial investment in the service by our commissioners - Suffolk Primary Care Trust, we have had difficulty in dealing with such high demand. Both the Primary Care Trust and hospital Trust recognise that is vital that we treat people in order of clinical priority so we have developed a framework to make sure we are treating people in turn - according to their clinical and social priorities- and that this priority criteria is shared and understood by everyone. This way of tackling the demand gives us the fairest way of treating people in turn" Ms Wright added.

The priority treatment will be given to people who

 - are working
 - have a  terminal illness
 - have severe hearing loss in both ears
 - are NHS war pensioners
 - are registered blind, and have a dual sensory handicap
 - have sudden permanent hearing loss
 - have Tinnitus which is intrusive to daily life.

The Trust wrote to each of the 1,600 people on the self-referral list to check that they still wanted a re-assessment, and 1,300 people confirmed that they did. 400 people from this list are being given priority appointments because of their clinical or social needs and will be seen as quickly as possible.  Personal letters of explanation setting out the priority criteria are being sent to 900 people who have asked for a new hearing aid but do not fall within the priority criteria. The letter also sets out that people will need a referral from their GP for a re-assessment appointment from changeover to digital, and that the hospital will no longer be able to action self-referrals.

"All of the audiologists (hearing and balance specialists) appreciate why people are asking for a new aid and this fair solution based on priority of need, ends uncertainty for many people who had self-referred to the service," commented Grahame Hunt, Head of Hearing Services.

"We are making clear the priorities we must work within including the need to give priority to patients who have never had a hearing aid before," he added.

While some people will have to wait for a replacement digital hearing aid, there is no need for people to be without a hearing aid. Anyone who has a problem with their current analogue hearing aid can make an immediate appointment for attention and re-assessment at the hospital.

Both the hospital Trust and Suffolk Primary Care Trust continue to work together to find ways of bringing down waiting times for patients and improving services.

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