FINANCE: A West Midlands clinical commissioning group’s controversial proposal to restrict access to NHS funded hearing aids has been narrowly approved by a council scrutiny committee.
The approval of North Staffordshire CCG’s plan – the first time a group has restricted access to hearing aids – was described by a hearing charity as a “serious blow”.
The policy will mean that patients with mild hearing loss of 26-40 decibels will no longer receive NHS funded hearing aids.
Those with moderate hearing loss of 41-51 decibels will only receive them so long as they score sufficiently highly in a “functional impact assessment”, which seeks to determine the impact of hearing loss on someone’s daily life.
Yesterday the CCG presented its plan to the Healthy Staffordshire local scrutiny committee.
In October the committee rejected the CCG’s proposals, leading commissioners to amend their policy to introduce the impact assessment.
After debating North Staffordshire’s revised proposals, Conservative councillor Philip Jones put forward the motion.
He said: “I don’t believe it’s our business to set clinical priorities in North Staffordshire. That cancer patients would be turned away over people with mild and moderate hearing loss – I cannot contemplate this. My motion is to accept the proposal from the CCG.”
Charlotte Atkins, a Labour councillor, put forward a rival motion to exercise the committee’s power to escalate the matter to the health secretary, claiming the proposals had “national implications” and were “totally contrary” to the policies of the local health and wellbeing board and county council.
A revised motion from the Conservative group to accept the CCG’s proposal but to review it in a year was passed, with nine committee members voting for it and eight against.
Louise Pritchard, executive director of the charity Action on Hearing Loss, said the approval was a “serious blow to the thousands of local people for whom hearing aids are a lifeline”.
She said the charity would continue to fight the changes, and it was collecting signatures for a petition that would could trigger a debate on the issue by Staffordshire County Council if it reached 5,000 signatures.
A North Staffordshire CCG spokesman said it welcomed the committee’s motion.
The CCG will now issue a contract variation to its providers with the policy coming into effect on 1 October.
CCG statement and information provided to HSJ
8 June 2015