Leeds patients face longest waits in country for NHS hearing tests

Patients referred for an NHS hearing test in Leeds face the longest waits in the country.

Monday, 9th June 2014, 7:00 am
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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), told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Leeds needs to catch up - the city’s residents deserve better.”

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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 for the 1,750 people on the list.

Leeds West was worst, with waits of 23.1 weeks and nearly two thirds of patients waiting for over 18 weeks – missing a national target.

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 the problem in Leeds was because the city’s NHS 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: “It’s a hard to understand why people in Leeds should be subjected to some of the worst waiting times in the country for services that are available in the community from the independent sector just a few miles away in other parts of the county.

“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.”

Now Leeds health chiefs have admitted waits are too long and promised they are taking action.

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.

“To do this we are working with our current providers of audiology services, which are a mix of community providers and local NHS hospital trusts, so that we can reduce waiting times for our patients.”

He said they were also reviewing the audiology service, including looking at capacity, demand and collecting feedback.

“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.