BSHAA chief executive Professor David Welbourn, pictured, said: “This consultation represents an important opportunity for the audiology world and the Society strongly urges the Department of Health to unify the regulation of all audiology professionals under a single statutory regulator.
“Regulation in the audiology community is currently unhelpfully fragmented and confusing to the public. All those who assess, programme and sell hearing aids in the private sector are rightly subject to statutory registration by HCPC, supported by both a protected title (Hearing Aid Dispenser) and a protected function. This also applies to any NHS Foundation Trust offering hearing care as part of their allowed portfolio of private practice.
“However, the majority (we estimate between 60 and 70%) of audiologists providing NHS hearing care are not covered by the HCPC registration, and are instead subject to voluntary registration with the Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (RCCP). As this is voluntary registration, clinical governance is only provided through the supervision of the employing organisation’s hierarchy. Some more senior audiologists practice as Clinical Scientists, and are once again subject to statutory registration, again with HCPC.
“There is very little public understanding of this difference, not helped by residual historical tensions arising from political/ethical views about the values of public vs private practice.
“Various initiatives are seeking to place RCCP registration on a statutory footing, but we would strongly urge that the opportunity is seized to unify the regulation of all audiology professionals under a single statutory regulator. This is particularly important, given that many patients and clients of audiology services are vulnerable, and that a large percentage of care is domiciliary.”