NHS audiology – adult hearing services guidance

A series of guides have been published to help the NHS increase access, quality and choice in adult hearing services whilst making the most of available resources

The guides, published this week, advise how stakeholders in NHS hearing care can work together to deliver the goals in the Five Year Forward View – including putting patients first, improving access and follow-up, delivering more care out-of-hospital and making better use of limited resources. Most importantly the guidance sets the stage to take preventative health more seriously by thinking of hearing care as a public health, rather than medical, challenge.

The series of guides aimed at commissioners, providers, health and wellbeing boards and Healthwatch are available online from the National Community Hearing Association

Improving access to health services for the deaf community

Health and care services need to be accessible for everyone, but those who are deaf often face problems. Healthwatch Bedford Borough share how they are working to achieve change in their area.

via Healthwatch.co.uk

We spoke to Emma Freda from Healthwatch Bedford Borough to find out more.

What made you investigate this issue?

Back in early January 2015 we were contacted by local organisation Access Bedford about the lack of text-only service for the deaf community to urgent care. We met with Access Bedford and other local organisations and found that the deaf community in Bedford Borough has significant issues to accessing health services.

What did you find out?

We learnt that people were unable to contact Bedford Hospital switchboard for non-urgent enquiries as they often had mobile phones and PCs as opposed to using type talk. This meant that they were unable to access the hospital switchboard just as a hearing person would to change their appointments, check opening hours, find out which ward a relative was on, or book British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters. We put our concerns and a series of our recommendations to the CCG and Bedford hospital.

What happened as a result?

After lengthy talks, Bedford Hospital launched a designated email address for the deaf community, to ensure they have access to Bedford Hospital switchboard services 24 hours a day. In addition to receiving an email acknowledgement, the sender will receive a response within 30 minutes, with details of the action being taken to a request to confirm information if necessary. We are proud to say that we campaigned for the first Hospital NHS Trust in the United Kingdom to have this specialist email facility for the deaf community.

Following work by Access Bedford, Bedfordshire Police recently followed suit, launching a designated email for all non-urgent queries and we’re currently in talks with the Local Authority and Fire Service to implement the same process.

What difference will it make?

This means that all people will have the same level of access to both Bedford Hospital and the Police for non-urgent enquiries.

What feedback have you had so far?

We have been overwhelmed with feedback from the deaf community, about how much better they feel about being able to access necessary services. We have also been working with NHS England on the soon to be released draft standards for interpretation (incl BSL) for the country and have given lots of feedback on the isolation felt by the deaf population when trying to access primary and secondary care settings.

A new drug for tinnitus?

Researchers in the US have been investigating a potential new drug to treat epilepsy, which also shows promise in preventing tinnitus developing after exposure to loud noise. Read the latest blog from Action on Hearing Loss to learn more about this research, and how, one day, it might lead to a new treatment for tinnitus.

Reference to the research: Kalappa BI, et al. (2015) Potent KCNQ2/3-specific channel activator suppresses in vivo epileptic activity and prevents the development of tinnitus. J. Neurosci. 35:8829