Talks on UK College of Audiology to proceed with door open to BAA return



BAA President Sue Falkingham while announcing her organisation's retreat from talks on the forming of a professional College © BAA

Groups working to unite the UK hearing care profession under a College of Audiology have issued a joint response statement to the announced withdrawal from the process by the British Academy of Audiology (BAA). The remaining groups will push on, but have reached out to the BAA to return.

UK audiology is a fragmented landscape. For decades, its professional concerns have been addressed by a plurality of associations, each with its own separate interests, yet all with crossover points. Early in 2018, a meeting between the major groups sparked a process to unify the voice of UK audiology into one College of Audiology. Since then, talks have been held to define and develop the idea, involving the aforementioned BAA, the British Society of Audiology (BSA), the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (BSHAA), the National Community Hearing Association (NCHA), and the Association of Independent Hearing Healthcare Professionals (AIHHP).

In the words of today's joint statement from the bodies left in the process after the BAA's withdrawal, "we committed to consulting widely on the shared principles, to do so transparently and welcome challenge." Positive progress appeared to have been made, with a working group from each of the five organisations openly discussing feedback at each stage of the process.

However, the apparent forward motion of the process was checked on November 14 when the outgoing President of the BAA announced, in response to member feedback, the withdrawal of her organisation from the College process. Her statement singled out the NCHA as the key bone of contention in the BAA's decision: "We have asked NCHA to leave the discussion of structure and governance until such time that other stakeholders are included and consulted in the process. NCHA have stated they will not leave the discussions so BAA will." (For in-depth cross-party comments on this announcement, see the December issue of Audio Infos UK #131)

A fortnight after the BAA's announcement, the remaining agents in the process have clarified their intention to move the forming of the College of Audiology to the next step, making it clear they are open to the BAA rejoining the process.

The joint statement explains: "We have taken the collective decision to publish our draft proposal and proceed with engaging the wider hearing sector, whilst reaching out to BAA Board and wider membership to be part of these discussions, and to play an active role in helping shape the proposed steering group so that they continue to share in oversight of the ongoing discussions for the whole sector and the population we serve."

And it continues: Our aim has always been to put the best interests of the sector and ultimately the people with hearing and balance issues whom we serve at the heart of discussions. It has also been the view to date that if we are to aspire towards acceptance as a respected College by peer Colleges across health, such a College would have to represent the whole breadth of a profession, act with total transparency independent of any one particular influence and be underpinned by the principles of a charitable charter.

"To date our conversations have followed these principles whilst being restricted within the audiology community. We are now ready to seek the all-important support from groups representing those who rely on the care provided by audiologists. We aim to share progress with the Hearing and Deafness Alliance to seek their views on the existing proposal. If supported by the wider and diverse members of the Alliance, we anticipate taking the next steps towards forming a steering group with broader representation."

"With growing evidence of the importance of good hearing, and timely access to hearing care, it becomes all the more important for the sector as a whole to overcome our differences and concentrate on those things which unite us. The audiology sector is small and covers a wide diversity of practices, organisations and specialisms, and we believe it is in the best interests of the people served by this sector to find a way of embracing this wide diversity under a common umbrella," the statement concludes.

The full update statement is now available on the BSA website. Click here.

Source: AWN