Manifesto launched to bring hearing into general election health focus

Retail group Specsavers sets out plan for changes in primary care hearing and eye health

Peter WIX, Published on 10 June 2024

Manifesto launched to bring hearing into general election health focus

With polls showing healthcare as a major concern for voters in the July 4 UK general election, the high street audiology and optometry chain Specsavers has today (June 10) launched a manifesto “to fight for the nation’s hearing and eye health”.

primary care hearing,specsavers

The proposals emphasise community audiology and optometry which, says Specsavers, “can further improve patient access to care and support the NHS – freeing up millions of GP and hospital appointments as well as reducing A&E attendances.”

“We want to see a nationally commissioned primary care audiology service for adults of all ages. It will enable everyone who needs NHS hearing care to refer themselves to a hearing care provider in the community, exactly as they do for problems with their eyesight,” says Gordon Harrison, Specsavers director of professional advancement, who underlines that changes to primary care hearing and eye health would “tackle a postcode lottery when it comes to access to care”.

 

Earwax removal under NHS and by primary care audiologists

 

primary care hearing,specsavers

© Rob Lacey / Specsavers
Gordon Harrison, Specsavers Director of Audiology Professional Advancement

“We are calling for the commissioning of removal of ear wax by primary care audiologists, in the community, everywhere so that ability to pay is not a barrier to receiving care. Efforts to encourage hearing aid use as a means of facilitating life-long learning, continuing employment, maintaining independence and social engagement must also be supported by the incoming government,” continues Harrison.

Underlining the need for action, he notes that about 40% of new referrals to UK hospitals for ear and hearing care in 2023 were for uncomplicated hearing problems including wax build up, presbycusis, and a runny nose.
“The Association for Primary Care Audiology Providers commissioned research to show that if access to primary care audiology was improved almost all these people could have their needs met more conveniently, and more cost effectively for the NHS, in primary care,” continues Harrison.
“More than two million GP appointments could also be saved per year, enabling GPs to focus on more urgent medical needs, and more than 250,000 hospital appointments saved per year freeing up time and capacity for one of the busiest hospital specialities,” argues the Specsavers expert.

Changes should take place “in months, not years”

 

primary care hearing,specsavers

Courtesy of Specsavers
Giles Edmonds,
Specsavers clinical services director

Giles Edmonds, Specsavers clinical services director, says primary care optometrists can save millions of GP consultations, routine hospital appointments and A&E attendances every year by managing eye-related conditions in the community, and calls for “unnecessary barriers” to eye health services to be scrapped in England for people who can’t leave their own homes unaccompanied, including those residing in care homes and for people experiencing homelessness not in receipt of state benefits.
“With a consistent commissioning and funding approach we can do even more to help patients and free up capacity in busy hospitals,” says Edmonds. 
The group points out that it is politically neutral, and is urging colleagues from across the hearing and eye health sectors to work together to support the aims of the manifesto to improve patient outcomes.
“The changes we are calling for can be delivered at scale and at pace, providing real benefits to patients in a matter of months, not years – without big reforms to the health system or significant additional investment from the NHS,” concludes Mr Edmonds.

Source: Specsavers

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