Thousands of Essex residents could be left unable to communicate in their day-to-day lives if health funding cuts go ahead

Hearing aids would no longer be provided for those with mild to moderate hearing loss

Hearing aids would no longer be provided for those with mild to moderate hearing loss - Credit: Archant

Cutting NHS spending on hearing aids would have a “devastating impact” on adults with mild hearing loss, it has been claimed.

National charity Action on Hearing Loss has blasted plans by the Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to “not routinely fund hearing aids for people with mild hearing loss”, as the group looks to make more than £15m of savings in this financial year.

“The plans would have a devastating impact on people with hearing loss, leaving thousands of local residents unable to communicate in their day-to-day lives,” said the charity in a response to Mid Essex’s public consultation, which ended on December 28.

The Mid Essex CCG covers Braintree district, including Witham and Halstead, Chelmsford borough and the district of Maldon.

In addition to not routinely funding the hearing aids, Mid Essex is also proposing to not routinely fund prescriptions for gluten-free food, vasectomies and female sterilisation and to potentially stop all direct GP-assessed physiotherapy.

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Action on Hearing and Mid Essex CCG have both delivered reports to Essex County Council ahead of a health overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday.

“The CCG wants to provide health services that meet the needs of local people yet we still have to balance this with the money available,” Mid Essex’s report tells the committee.

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“In the past year, Mid Essex CCG has had to make tough decisions to restrict a number of services, including IVF, as well as taking decisions on plans to transform local healthcare.”

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.

As well as the proposals for hearing aid provision, the CCG has also come under fire for the proposed cuts to physiotherapy services.

Currently those with musculoskeletal injuries, such as a painful shoulder or knee, visit their GP and can be referred to a community physiotherapy team. Three options proposed by the CCG are firstly to limit the service to one assessment and one follow-up, secondly to offer telephone advice only, or thirdly to stop all GP-assessed physiotherapy entirely, which would mean patients would have to fund physiotherapy treatment themselves.

In a report to the county council, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy claimed the proposals would be “a contravention of patients’ rights under the NHS constitution”.

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