RNID and our supporters are thrilled that after eight years of campaigning, controversial hearing aid restrictions in North Staffordshire will be removed, and NHS hearing aids will be available to everyone – regardless of level of hearing loss or area.
The restrictions that prevented some people in North Staffordshire from accessing hearing aids on the NHS have now been lifted, following a U-turn by Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care Board.
In 2015, North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) became the only part of England to restrict the provision of hearing aids, denying access to patients with mild or moderate hearing loss. The decision was made in the face of the overwhelming evidence that hearing aids are clinically effective and cost effective for the NHS.
As well as affecting people in North Staffordshire, the unfair restrictions on hearing aids set a precedent for other Clinical commissioning groups across England.
Following North Staffordshire’s decision in 2015, several other areas across the country proposed hearing aid cuts, potentially limiting access to thousands of people who would benefit from hearing aids. RNID, together with thousands of supporters, local politicians and audiologists, campaigned against this and the proposals were dropped, except in North Staffordshire. Restrictions were partially lifted in January 2021, but many people in the area were still left without access to hearing aids.
On Friday 23 September 2022, a statement from NHS Midlands and Lancashire CSU Media Team said the decision to remove the current restrictions had been made following a review of the latest clinical evidence and would deliver the best use of NHS resources.
Crystal Rolfe. Associate Director for Health at RNID, said:
“RNID and our supporters are absolutely thrilled that after years of campaigning, Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care Board has agreed to remove these unfair restrictions on hearing aids in North Staffordshire.
“Research shows that for people with mild hearing loss, hearing aids improve communication, relationships, self-confidence, social participation and overall health, and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety. There is also a growing body of evidence to show that hearing aids may reduce the risk of dementia for people with hearing loss.
“Hearing aids are a cost-effective solution for the NHS, so the previous decision to restrict access to them was unjustifiable and against the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.
“We’re pleased that this decision removes the postcode lottery for hearing aids, and ensures that hearing aids are freely available for all who need them. A pair of private hearing aids can cost £2500, which is unaffordable for many people, especially during a cost-of-living crisis.
“Today we celebrate this momentous change in policy, which will protect access to hearing aids for everyone who needs them, not only in North Staffordshire but in the rest of the UK.”
Linda Parton, from North Staffordshire, has supported RNID to campaign against hearing aid restrictions over the last 8 years. She said:
“I decided to get my hearing sorted when it was becoming difficult to work, to follow the conversations of my grandchildren and watching TV with other people became impossible. Now, I’ve been wearing my hearing aids for 8 and a half years and they are my lifeline.
“When I was fitted with hearing aids, it was a miracle. There was an instant improvement. However, my local CCG North Staffordshire started talking about restricting the provision of hearing aids just a few months after I got my hearing aids. If I had not been able to get hearing aids I would have been frightened, depressed, isolated, and not at all the person I am today. I’m delighted that the decision has been made to reverse these restrictions so that everyone who needs hearing aids can benefit from them.”
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