The government’s £20bn efficiency drive has led to direct cuts to services offered to patients, according to a charity report.

Action on Hearing Loss said that as a result of the efficiency savings, 16 per cent of trusts are reducing the number of follow-up appointments for patients with hearing loss.

The charity said that 8 per cent of audiology departments have admitted that as a result of the “productivity challenge” there has been a reduction in the number of specialist staff available for complex cases.

And 15 per cent of trusts said that there had been an increase in waiting times.

Two in five trusts said they had been affected by the efficiency savings.

A spokesman for the charity, which lodged Freedom of Information requests with the heads of audiology at 128 trusts in England, said vital audiology services should not be cut.

Paul Breckell, chief executive at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “People with hearing loss have the right to expect the very best local services so it’s concerning that so many audiology departments have already felt the impact of budget cuts.

“With managing budgets becoming increasingly challenging, it’s vital that trusts and audiologists work together in innovative ways to ensure that the right resources are available at the right time to improve efficiency - but not at the cost of reducing the quality of essential life-changing hearing services.

“Making savings from hearing service cuts right now is a false economy because it will only lead to higher NHS and social care costs to support people with untreated hearing loss in the long run.”