Is the support service market a closed shop? And help is at hand for tinnitus sufferers

An unfair playing field

The tweaks to the Health Act focused mainly on accountability to external regulators and the issue of competition. The core principle, of clinical commissioning groups driving change, remains intact. CCGs must now start working on the assumption that they have the mandate that they were originally promised, with a few caveats.

CCGs must urgently step up in asserting their commissioning role as they inherit a share of this year’s commissioning budget and local decision-making in shadow form. But without becoming more vociferous about the information they need to do the job, as well as being more demanding about having access to it and how it should be provided to them, their task will be a tricky one.

A worrying aspect emerging as a result of the revised legislation is how quickly clinical support service organisations are rising, phoenix-like, from PCT clusters. Despite the absence of any statutory powers, they are being formally assessed by the NHS Commissioning Board and promoted to CCGs without any recourse to open market comparisons of their capabilities or value. While this may be a pragmatic approach to managing the transition from PCTs, is this being driven by requests from CCGs for support or by traditional NHS reshuffling of staff to ensure their survival?

CCGs need to take an active interest in this locally. It is their management allocation which, in some cases, is already been significantly topsliced, that will fund these new organisations. The CSSs should not be protected from open market competition - as they are intending to be until 2014 - but should have to justify their existence alongside any willing provider and measured by the speed to value they can deliver.

I hope the new legislation will see CCGs truly empowered and liberated as it intends. My concern is that they may be emasculated by the current system reconfigurations which are driven by the former hierarchy, in part, through self-interest to preserve the old status quo.

Paul Fitzsimmons, managing director, MedeAnalytics

An unfair playing field

As a coroner criticises “shameful” delays in treatment of a man who stabbed himself to death while waiting to be treated for tinnitus, it is clear people are not getting the support they need and still do not know where to turn when this debilitating condition makes life unbearable.

The tragic case of Robert McIndoe is just the latest high profile suicide by a tinnitus sufferer and a stark reminder of the seriousness of the condition. Our heartfelt sympathy goes to his family for their awful loss. Deafness Research UK wants to assure people they are not alone and we are here to offer help, guidance and support.

Mr McIndoe was still waiting for treatment three months after diagnosis and while any wait is too long for someone in crisis, the NHS does sterling work given the pressures it operates under. The father of two’s repeated attempts to seek help should have rung warning bells. The tragedy highlights two important learning points: firstly that the warning bells were not heard and secondly that there are organisations like Deafness Research UK who can help.

The charity continues to fund research into better treatments, with the ultimate aim of a cure. Our free information leaflets offer immediate help to sufferers and our national helpline provides additional support for those who need it.

We understand the noises in the ears and head that define tinnitus can seem intolerable. Many feel that after consulting the NHS they have nowhere else to turn. We urge people to turn to Deafness Research UK. In many cases we can assist and offer some hope.

Our new leaflet Managing Tinnitus is free and available directly from our website at, by emailing or by calling our freephone helpline on 0808 808 2222.

Vivienne Michael, chief executive, Deafness Research UK