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20 March: Update from the chief executive

By BSHAA chief executive Prof David WelbournFriday 20 March

Things continue to develop rapidly in the UK response to Covid 19, and BSHAA is working hard to ensure that the role of audiologists is seen as part of the solution to relieve the crisis, and not just another dimension of the problem.

An important part of our message is that social distancing for those with hearing loss becomes deeply isolating if there is a breakdown in access to even the simplest of hearing care services – battery supply, maintenance, cleaning, retubing etc. We are already hearing about voluntary support groups being pared back, and hospital-based services being displaced to make space for new intensive care capacity.

Our engagement with the policy response team for primary care is moving apace and it was very gratifying to give a positive message to the forum that community audiologists are well placed to provide safe, effective and essential care to a high percentage of the vulnerable group, but will need to be properly recognised and supported to do this.

Engaging with Government

We are engaging with the Government Departments in both the Treasury and Business Energy and industrial Strategy, seeking recognition for community audiologists as essential workers who need to be protected from the anticipated restrictions on general retail, but who will also need proper funding if they are to provide essential cover to the wider community.

We recognise that there are important differences across the four nations and different regions, and that we need to be pressing for clarity and consistency for our members wherever they are based.

You will appreciate that things are changing on a daily basis, and as priorities change, we must not assume that any of our efforts will come to fruition, but what we are taking to the policy makers is an offer of help, provided the right support is forthcoming. This is a strong place to be.

We will keep you informed as we make progress.

Supporting the vulnerable in our communities

In the meantime, many of you are asking what you can and should be doing, as you seek to adapt to your own experience. More than ever, your response can be shaped by focusing on the needs not only of your clients, but of the vulnerable in your community whose access and engagement will be increasingly dependent on maintaining their hearing aids in working order.

It is a good time to build new links with fellow audiologists across your community, to support each other. Maintaining basic services may prove to be as much a lifeline for you as for the people you are helping. Don’t forget that BSHAA is offering frequent updates, and encouraging you to share great ideas and practical thoughts with your colleagues, which we will be turning into FAQs and fresh tips.

Finally, may I encourage you to check out the latest information on our website before contacting our membership services, to reduce the workload on the fantastic team who support members so well.