PATIENTS in Leeds referred for an NHS hearing test are facing the longest waits in the country.
Latest figures show waits of over 20 weeks for audiology appointments in the city – five times the national average of four weeks.
Nearly 2,000 people are on the waiting list in Leeds, a situation condemned by a national charity.
David Hewlett, chief executive of the National Community Hearing Association (NCHA), said: “Leeds needs to catch up - the city’s residents deserve better.”
The three Leeds clinical commissioning groups, which plan and pay for healthcare, recorded the longest waiting times in England in March, with an average of 20.7 weeks.
Around 1,750 people are on the list.
But nationally the average for England is 4.4 weeks, while in nearby districts patients will also only wait for a fraction of the time – 5.2 weeks in Wakefield and 3.4 weeks in Huddersfield.
The NCHA, which represents community hearing service providers, said Leeds CCGs only referred patients for tests provided by the health service.
In other areas, the charity said, GPs could send patients for free NHS hearing services at companies like Boots and Specsavers.
Mr Hewlett added: “Elsewhere in the country enlightened commissioners, hospitals and community providers are transforming the way patients can access hearing services without hospital visits, at no cost to patients and within NHS budgets.”
Leeds health chiefs have now admitted waits are too long and promised they were addressing the issue with providers.
A spokesman for the Leeds clinical commissioning groups said: “We acknowledge that waiting times for some audiology services are currently higher than the national average.
“However we want to reassure local people we are pro-actively working to address this.”
He said they were also reviewing the audiology service.
“Once we have completed our review we will make a decision as to whether to conduct a commissioning exercise which would include an opportunity for non-hospital providers of audiology services,” he added.