A pilot scheme aimed at cutting waiting times for hearing loss appointments in Northern Ireland has been put on hold.
Responding to the news NCHA Chief Executive David Hewlett said:
“Cancelling the pilot is a retrograde step for the citizens of Northern Ireland, and seeking to expand capacity in hospitals goes against all the evidence in the face of growing need. It is like trying to drain an ocean with a bucket.
“According to the leading charity, Action on Hearing Loss, “people with hearing loss in Northern Ireland are getting a worse service than anywhere else in the UK” and even if solving the problem today as proposed were possible – and the evidence does not support this – this is simply storing up worse problems for tomorrow.
“It is also extremely odd public policy that overlooks readily available capacity in the community, which could be made available to the health service at relatively low cost, whilst seeking to invest scarce public money in higher-cost capacity which does not yet, and need not, exist and may not even be achievable, whilst making older patients travel further and wait longer.
“The waiting times currently being breached in Northern Ireland are 9 weeks for assessment plus a further 13 weeks for hearing aid fitting. That means despite already making people in Northern Ireland wait longer than anywhere else in the UK, people are still not seen on time. Waiting times are also only part of the problem, we also know there are significant gaps in follow-up and ongoing support care.
“Put simply, workarounds will not work and today’s announcement will continue to delay much needed change. The evidence has been overlooked and patients failed. We will be writing to the Department of Health to see how we can help ensure people with hearing loss are able to access responsive and ongoing care for their hearing loss.”