FINANCE: A West Midlands clinical commissioning group has delayed a decision on controversial proposals to cut funding for hearing aids.

In June North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group announced it was seeking views on a plan to withdraw public funding for hearing aids for people with mild to moderate age related hearing loss – the majority of people who use the devices.

The feedback exercise finished in October and the CCG was due to consider the proposals at its board meeting this week, but following vehement opposition from local authority scrutiny committees and audiology groups the CCG pushed back any decision until next year.

North Staffordshire CCG said its board was unable to make a decision until it had specific “eligibility criteria” to consider.

A spokesman for the group said: “The CCG feels at this time it cannot make a final decision on the proposal in its current format and has asked for further work to be undertaken, including considerations around eligibility criteria.”

He said the eligibility criteria would reflect the findings of the CCG’s clinical priorities advisory group, the needs of the local population, public feedback and its financial position.

It would then be taken through quality and equality impact assessments before being presenting to the CCG’s commissioning, finance and performance committee early next year.

However the charity Action on Hearing Loss, which held a demonstration outside North Staffordshire CCG’s board meeting on Wednesday, expressed dismay that the group appeared to be pressing on with its plans.

Chief executive Paul Breckell said it was “very disappointing” the proposals had not yet been formally dropped and “worrying that the CCG seem to be ignoring the clear advice of their local scrutiny committees”.

“Disappointedly, we understand from the CCG board papers… that the CCG will now look to develop eligibility criteria for people to receive hearing aids,” he said.

“All people who could benefit from hearing aids, should receive them and should not be subject to any other criteria.”