FINANCE: A financially challenged clinical commissioning group has unveiled proposals to restrict access to services such as hearing aids as they are “widely available on the high street”.
Mid Essex CCG is consulting on proposals to stop routinely funding hearing aids for people with mild hearing loss, prescriptions for gluten-free foods, vasectomies and female sterilisation
It is also consulting on options to change GP accessed physiotherapy.
The CCG has an accumulated deficit of £24.9m and needs to make £15.7m of savings to break even in 2015-16.
Last year it introduced stringent restrictions on specialist fertility services, limiting services such as IVF to “exceptional clinical cases”.
Essex was also one of the regions placed in the “success regime” in June because of long running financial and quality issues.
Mid Essex is proposing to stop routinely funding hearing aids for people with mild hearing loss to save £335,000 a year. It claimed many people prescribed the aids “do not wear them” and devices are “widely available on the high street”.
Hearing aids can cost between £500 and £2,800 on the high street. The charity Action on Hearing Loss said if Mid Essex followed through with the proposals it would remove “a lifeline to many who would otherwise be sat at home unable to communicate with the outside world”.
The CCG said the policy to routinely fund gluten-free foods was created at a time when they were “not as readily available as they are today”, and that scrapping these prescriptions would save £100,000 a year.
It thinks it can save £256,000 a year by ending funding for vasectomies and female sterilisation, because vasectomies “can be accessed privately relatively cheaply” and “effective low risk alternative methods” of contraception are available for women.
The CCG’s final money saving proposal is to change GP-accessed physiotherapy to either a telephone advice service, or to limit the number of available sessions. This could save £825,000 or £600,000 respectively.
The consultation closes on 28 December.
Hearing aid restrictions dropped
North East Essex CCG has dropped proposals to stop funding hearing aids for people with mild hearing loss.
The CCG said following a six week consultation it concluded the policy had “the potential to adversely impact on the quality of life for a large proportion of individuals living with mild hearing loss across north east Essex”.
However, it said it would “continue to explore other ways of providing this service in a more cost effective way”.