Monitor Report: evaluating choice in the NHS


Introducing patient choice has improved access to free NHS hearing services for people with hearing loss, according to a report launched by the health sector regulator Monitor.

The report, which is based on the findings from a survey of 1,200 patients as well as feedback and interviews with patients, GPs, service providers, commissioners and other groups, looked at the impact of the ‘any qualified provider’ (AQP) policy in adult hearing services.

Monitor’s review shows that higher standards can be commissioned at lower prices, allowing the NHS to see more patients. The report found that seven out of every ten people who were offered a choice of provider said that they valued it, although even in areas where patients should have had a choice of provider, only one in ten were actually offered a choice. It recommends that more information should be made available to patients and GPs about the services available, for example through leaflets, as well as by promoting online resources such as Action on Hearing Loss’s Locate and Rate tool.

Paul Breckell, Chief Executive of the UK’s largest hearing loss charity, Action on Hearing Loss, said, "We completely agree that the NHS needs to do more to make patients aware of the options available to them, but, as audiology units across the country face cuts, it’s crucial that local services are kept or put in place so that local people can get the help they need to address their hearing difficulties."

By allowing hearing services to be provided in more accessible locations, such as the high street and in GP surgeries, the report found that this new policy has led to increasing numbers of people getting help for their hearing loss. The report advises commissioners to explore the impacts that introducing patient choice could have in terms of patient outcomes, service quality, demand and overall spending.

The April/May issue of Audio Infos UK looks in more detail at the Monitor report and also the new Action Plan on Hearing Loss published by NHS England and the Department of Health.

Read the full reports here:

Monitor report

Action Plan on Hearing Loss