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Audiology Services

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what consultation took place with (a) charities, (b) patient groups and (c) NHS trusts prior to the decision to exclude audiology services from the Government’s 18-week waiting time target for treatment; and if she will make a statement. (80461)

[holding answer 26 June 2006]: The Department conducted a six-week consultation exercise in autumn 2005 on the “Commissioning an 18-week patient pathway: Proposed principles and definitions: A discussion document”. This consultation exercise asked for comments on a wide range of issues, including on delivering shorter waiting times for audiology services. The Department specifically requested feedback on the document from the patients’ association, the patients’ forum, and the national health service, along with professional bodies. The Department also received feedback from Royal National Institute for the Deaf.

The majority of audiology and adult hearing services are accessed directly from primary care and are outside the scope of the 18-week pathway, which is focused on hospital pathways. Hearing and balance conditions that do need to be referred to a medical consultant will be subject to the 18-week’s target. We do not intend to reconsider this principle. However, reducing the time that patients wait for directly accessed services is important and an action plan is being developed to improve access to audiology services outside the 18-week pathway.