The long awaited NHS commissioning framework for people with hearing loss has at last been launched in Westminster. Jointly written by members of the Hearing Loss and Deafness Alliance, NHS England and representatives from a number of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), this document is directly relevant to members who provide hearing care on behalf of the NHS, through the Any Qualified Provider (AQP) scheme, but it is also important to members who only offer private care.
Before its publication, local CCGs made their decisions about what hearing care services to deliver, with limited support to understand how much this would cost them or whether they were getting good value. Some were well informed, with a good local relationship with audiology teams and ensured their population received excellent care and others, like North Staffordshire had a different, less caring approach.
Now that the framework has been published, there is no justification for any other CCG to copy North Staffordshire and decline care to those who need it. The framework provides a clear explanation of why hearing care is important, what demand each local CCG can expect, and how to ensure that the services they commission are both high quality and value for money.
Explaining why BSHAA has been involved in the process of delivering the framework, which he still describes as imperfect, BSHAA Chief Executive David Welbourn says he was concerned at the absurd fragmentation of the audiology sector in the UK which brought confusion and uncertainty to the public. “Throughout the process BSHAA has lived out our values of professionalism, and fought hard for the whole profession as well as our duty to the public who need hearing care,” he says, adding: “We have fought hard to ensure the framework addresses all adults, not just the elderly, and we have stood firm in establishing a language based on the opportunity for improved wellbeing and fulfilment, rather than constantly stressing the disability of hearing loss. There is clearly more to be done, but the framework opens the door to a more open-minded approach to better hearing care. Based on the respect we’ve earned in this process on your behalf, I’ve begun the process of suggesting we explore alternative policies such as a voucher scheme to bring private and NHS care into a coherent offering, similar to the service for eye care.’
Download the framework document