Hearing aid victory in Essex as NHS funding cut proposals shelved
- Credit: Archant
It was previously warned the proposals would have a “devastating impact” and leave “thousands unable to communicate in their day-to-day lives”.
The Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) sparked outcry over the New Year period after announcing proposals to not “routinely” fund hearing aids for people with mild hearing loss.
But after a public consultation, the CCG has approved recommendations to delay a decision on the proposals and said “more time to develop alternative cost-saving options” will be given before board members meet again at the end of March.
The Mid Essex CCG covers the Braintree district, including Witham and Halstead, the borough of Chelmsford and the district of Maldon.
Paul Breckell, chief executive of Action on Hearing Loss, had previously warned that the proposals would have a “devastating impact on people with hearing loss” and leave “thousands of residents unable to communicate in their day-to-day lives”.
Last night, he said: “We welcome the decision made by the Mid Essex CCG to continue to fund hearing aids services which have been available to people with a hearing loss in Essex since the inception of the NHS.
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“We look forward to engaging with them in the future to offer our support and expertise to help ensure that people with hearing loss in Mid Essex are provided with access to high quality hearing aid services.”
But the CCG has decided to go ahead with proposals to stop the routine funding of gluten-free foods on prescription and to not routinely fund vasectomy and female sterilisation in mid Essex.
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The CCG will now only offer funding for gluten-free foods and vasectomy and female sterilisation in clinically exceptional cases.
More than 1,200 people took part in an eight-week online survey, carried out by Mid Essex CCG, concerning the proposals. Around 130 people also attended six public meetings.
Dr Donald McGeachy, medical director of Mid Essex CCG, said: “We are very grateful to the many people who shared their views and gave feedback on the proposals.
“Given the strength of public feeling expressed during the consultation and the support shown by professional bodies to working with local providers, we have decided to delay a decision on changing policy for hearing aids for mild hearing loss and GP-accessed physiotherapy. We want to explore other ways that we can make savings.
“However, we are still in a position where we have to save £15.7m this year, and still need to take some very tough decisions.
“After considering every aspect – feedback from local people, national campaign groups, clinical guidance – we have decided to stop routinely funding gluten-free food on prescription and to stop routinely funding vasectomy and female sterilisation.
“We are aware of the distress this may cause some people; it has been a very tough decision to make. However, given the severe financial situation in mid Essex, we need to take action.”
In the 2014/15 financial year, the CCG published a report for the council in which it described itself as being one of the “11 most financially-challenged health economies in the country”.
Its current annual budget from the Government is £14m below its funding target for the current financial year.