FINANCE: Four clinical commissioning groups in Staffordshire have ‘paused’ a consultation on restricting access to NHS funded hearing aids

The announcement comes weeks after local councillors condemned cuts to hearing aid provision in the county.

Hearing test

Staffordshire County councillors last month supported a petition opposed to hearing aid cuts

Stafford and Surrounds, Cannock Chase, East Staffordshire, and South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula CCGs’ said in September they were going to consult on restricting access to hearing aids to people with mild to moderate adult onset hearing loss.

The proposals are the same as those recently implemented by North Staffordshire CCG, which last month became the first commissioner in NHS history to restrict access to publicly funded hearing aids.

However, the CCGs said yesterday they had “paused” their engagement exercise “in order to offer council health chiefs further information”.

The announcement follows a vote by Staffordshire County councillors last month in support of a petition opposed to hearing aid cuts, organised by the charity Action on Hearing Loss.

The council had asked North Staffordshire CCG to investigate the clinical benefits of hearing aids, and asked the other CCGs to conduct their own full and independent consultations, taking into account the evidence and the views of local people.

Andrew Donald, chief officer of Cannock Chase, Stafford and Surrounds, and South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula CCGs, said: “We presented our plans to start talking to our local patient populations about the policy implemented in north Staffordshire to Staffordshire County Council’s Healthy Staffordshire select committee.

“It was clear when North Staffordshire began to engage on the policy and again at the meeting with the select committee that the conversation around the policy is complex and something we need to introduce very clearly with specific reference to the extensive engagement done by the CCG in North Staffordshire, how we plan to build on that work locally and the clinical evidence that are the building blocks of the policy.

“With this in mind, we have agreed to pause our engagement and hold a workshop with [the committee] to discuss the proposal further and to introduce the detail the councillors have requested to better understand the policy.”

Action on Hearing Loss welcomed the pause. Roger Wicks, the charity’s director of policy and campaigns, said: “We urge the CCGs not to take away the life line of hearing aids from anybody who needs them.”