New National Commissioning Framework for Hearing Loss Services launched

A new guide to help organisations responsible for planning and commissioning local hearing services for deaf people and those with diminishing hearing is launched by NHS England today (19 July).

The Commissioning Services for People with Hearing Loss – a Framework for Clinical Commissioning Groups, will be presented by the Chief Scientific Officer for England, Professor Sue Hill OBE and Jim Fitzpatrick MP , Chair of the All Party Group on Deafness at an event at Portcullis House, Westminster.

The publication – following a key recommendation made in the Action Plan on Hearing Loss last year – has been produced with patient groups, services users, hearing loss charities and healthcare providers.

Many of the organisations and individuals involved will also attend the event to hear how the comprehensive framework will address support for people whose hearing loss is affecting their ability to fully participate in society.

The framework establishes what effective commissioning looks like for CCGs by:

  1. Ensuring CCGS are  supported  when choosing good value services  for their local populations
  2. The needs of local people are met by high quality integrated care
  3. Addressing access and outcome inequalities
  4. Improving patient choice when it comes to selecting services
  5. Contracting and monitoring outcomes and referrals from all providers to ensure consistency

It also features a range of local commissioning model case studies, feedback on what matters from those experiencing hearing issues and the principles required before commissioning.

Professor Sue Hill said: “Following the publication of the Action Plan last year, I am pleased that we now have a practical guide that will support commissioners making day to day decisions with patients affected by hearing loss. The framework represents a dedicated partnership with stakeholders and sets out a series of recommendations on how services for people living with hearing loss can be improved. I’d like to thank all the patients, professionals and organisations who have given their time, experience and knowledge to make this document so credible and compelling.”

It is estimated that hearing loss already affects 10 million people in some form, one in six people in the capital. Figures are set to increase by 2031 as a result of an ageing population, increasing exposure to rising volumes of noise at workplaces, homes, gyms and the use of headphones for loud music and games devices.

John Maidens, a profoundly deaf service user who contributed to the framework described the NHS as receptive and responsive to his needs in providing the best available models of hearing aids.  He said: “Isolation and ignorance are common experiences for many deaf people. Having the skilled support and access to hearing aid and cochlear implant technology through the NHS has been a lifeline.”

Anyone affected by hearing loss including children, young people, working age and older adults, can experience social isolation, lack of employment opportunities, poor language development and communication skills.  Hearing loss and deafness also reduces people’s ability to care for themselves and their own families’ health conditions.

In 2018, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will develop guidelines around the assessment and management of adult-onset hearing loss.