A national health body has slammed the NHS in Leeds for “failing patients” with its plans to bring down waiting times for hearing aid fittings.
Members of the National Community Hearing Association (NCHA) claim the city’s bid to put a stop to residents having to wait several months to be fitted with hearing aids has resulted in no change of approach.
In November waiting times for hearing aid fittings in Leeds were three-and-a-half times the national average at up to 17 weeks, while almost 40 per cent of patients were not seen within the 18-week NHS target from referral by their GP for treatment.
Patients had to go directly to Leeds General Infirmary for hearing aids but, following a review, the NHS in Leeds opened up the service to bidders as part of the specialist Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) service so some GP practices could see patients.
Colin Campbell, a member of the NCHA panel, claims Leeds’s “bizarre” approach still means patients will be referred by GPs to the hospitals for hearing aids.
He said: “I think it’s failing patients and failing the tax payer. I can’t imagine how it would impact greatly on waiting times – nothing has changed.”
A recent report by regulator Monitor supported commissioning adult hearing services separately to ENT, so patients could also have hearing aids fitted on the high street or by GPs.
In January Leeds patients were waiting 11 to 13 weeks to have hearing aids fitted. Hearing loss can lead to isolation and dementia if left untreated.
A spokesman for Leeds’s NHS commissioners said it aims to offer pathways that can “meet the needs of patients” as well as representing the “best value”.