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Hearing Impaired: Health Services

Volume 468: debated on Thursday 29 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people are waiting for hearing tests in (a) England, (b) West Yorkshire, (c) Hemsworth constituency, (d) Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and (e) Pontefract Primary Care Trust; what steps are being taken to reduce the numbers of people waiting; and if he will make a statement. (167920)

The available information is shown in the following table.

Waits for audiology assessments in requested organisations—September 2007

Organisation/area

Audiology assessments: total waiting

Audiology assessments: number waiting 6+ weeks

Audiology assessments: number waiting 13+ weeks

Audiology assessments: number waiting 26+ weeks

Provider—Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust

36

0

0

0

Commissioner—Wakefield PCT

32

6

4

2

Yorkshire and the Humber SHA

7,684

5,485

4,654

3,674

England—Commissioner level

91,349

59,415

42,542

30,384

Notes:

1. Only information on audiological assessments is collected. Audiology assessments include hearing tests, which cannot be separately identified.

2. Pontefract has no primary care trust (PCT) but is part of Wakefield PCT.

Source:

Diagnostic Monthly Monitoring (DM01)

As part of the process to address the challenges in audiology services the Department, working with key stakeholders, developed the national audiology framework, ‘Improving Access to Audiology Services in England’, which was published in March 2007. Since the publication of the framework a number of key steps have already been implemented; we have improved the data on audiology by collecting monthly data of all audiology assessments together with a quarterly census of waits for all diagnostic tests, including audiology. We are also currently piloting the collection of referral to treatment times for all direct access referrals into audiology. A good practice guide was published in June 2007 that includes model pathways for the delivery of care. An audiology advisory board has been created to support the implementation and to review progress on the key deliverables. Progress has been made on testing the new assess-and-fit technology which enables a hearing aid to be fitted on the same day as assessment. Work has also begun on the Audiology Transformation Project, which is aimed at ensuring the good practice guidance can be fully implemented and the potential gains in capacity realised.

The strategic health authorities have provided assurance that their activity plans for 2007-08 aim to deliver the six-week maximum wait for all diagnostic tests, including audiology assessments, by March 2008.

With regard to the local position, a new joint £3 million investment from Wakefield District PCT and Kirklees PCT has enabled the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust to cut the waiting times for digital hearing aid assessment to six weeks. The investment has been used to fund additional staff for extra clinics at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust and also to offer further services in the community. This means that more patients are being seen, and are having their digital hearing aids fitted as soon as possible, with the majority of patients having aids fitted within 12 weeks.