NCHA Member Newsletter – 13 March 2020

NCHA Member Newsletter - 13 March 2020
  • 13

NCHA Member Newsletter – 13 March 2020

Update includes:
  • NICE Publishes tinnitus guideline
  • COVID-19 update
  • HCPC appoints new CEO
  • Budget statement – update for hearing care providers
  • AAA conference cancelled
  • Chief Scientific Officer Strategy published
  • Other sector news
  • Health Policy update
  • Live consultations            

NICE publishes tinnitus guideline

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published its final guideline on tinnitus: assessment and management.

The NCHA provided extensive feedback on the draft guideline during the consultation phase to ensure the final version was evidence-based, objective and impartial on location of care. The resulting guideline incorporates NCHA and other stakeholder feedback and is a much improved version of the initial draft. Read the BTA’s response to the new guideline.

Members are encouraged to read the guideline and send any feedback to [email protected]. Members can also contact NICE directly at [email protected].


COVID-19 update 

There continues to be some misinformation on the coronavirus (COVID-19). Members are advised to carry on using official sources for up-to-date information. You can access this as follows:

England – Guidance of clinicians
Northern Ireland – Public Health Agency (COVID-19) 
Scotland – Health Protection Scotland (guidance for primary care)
Wales – Public Health Wales (COVID-19) 

For a more general overview you might find the following independent sources useful:


Business advice

If you are an employer or a business owner the government encourages you to read and follow its guidance for employers and businesses.

The government has also announced a series of measures to support businesses during a potential downturn during COVID-19 (see Budget update below).

Businesses struggling to meet tax commitments due to short-term cash flow issues might also be able to access government support. Learn more or call the dedicated HMRC on 0800 0159 559.

Practice owners might also find advice issued by the CBI helpful as it covers tips on managing daily operations (including cleaning and supply chain management), signposting HR teams to government advice for employers, communication with staff, and managing sick pay and sickness at work. The CBI will continue to update this resource and members might find it useful to monitor. Learn more.

The NCHA is in regular contact with the NHS and will keep members up to date with any major developments. If you have any questions, please contact us [email protected].


HCPC appoints new CEO

The HCPC has appointed John Barwick as the new chief executive of the regulator. John joined the HCPC eight years ago as a case team manager and in a statement said: “There has never been a more important time, with what is happening with coronavirus for example, for making sure that we provide excellence in everything we do. One of the ways we can do this is to make sure that our wonderful and selfless health and care professionals are supported and allowed every opportunity to treat those they see every day.”


Budget statement – update for hearing care providers

What could this week’s Budget announcement mean for NCHA members? We have summarised the key issues affecting you, whether you’re a practice owner, self-employed or an employee of a hearing care practice.


What it might mean if you’re a practice owner

  • Corporation tax will be held at 19% for 2020. However, the specific reference to 2020 suggests this might be reviewed in the near future.
  • The government committed to launching a review of business rates that will report in the autumn. The NCHA will continue to monitor this and keep you updated of any changes that will affect your business.
  • In the context of COVID-19, the government announced temporarily increasing the business rates discount in England to 100% for 2020-21 for properties below the £51,000 rateable value – meaning about 50 per cent of business properties will not pay business rates for 2020-21.
  • For small businesses that pay little or no business rates, £2.2 billion of funding will be directed to local authorities in England. This will provide £3,000 to around 700,000 businesses currently eligible for small business rate relief or rural rate relief.
  • The employment allowance (EA) for employer national insurance contributions (NICs) is increasing from £3,000 to £4,000 from 6 April 2020. The EA will only be available to smaller businesses who had an employer’s NIC bill of £100,000 or less in the previous tax year. According to the government, businesses will gain on average £850 a year from this measure.
  • A £28m package and up to 10,000 start-up loans to support entrepreneurs and businesses.
  • Changes to the off-payroll working rules (commonly known as IR35) for large and medium sized businesses contracting with workers via personal service companies will be implemented on 6 April 2020 as planned. NCHA members can continue to contact us for support by emailing [email protected]
  • The national living wage (NLW) will increase on 1 April 2020 from £8.21 to £8.72 an hour for workers aged over 25. The government also set a target for the NLW to reach two-thirds of median earnings and to be extended to workers aged 21 and over by 2024. It is expected to be more than £10.50 an hour.
  • Infrastructure announcements included £5 billion to improve access to gigabit-capable broadband in remote areas of the UK and £500 million to extend 4G mobile coverage to 95% of the UK. This might prove useful in supporting innovative and emerging tele audiology models of care. 


What it might mean for employed staff

  • The government announced plans to increase the national insurance contribution (NIC) thresholds from £8,632 to £9,500, saving a typical employee around £104 a year from April.
  • The national living wage will increase from £8.21 to £8.72 per hour from 1 April 2020 and is expected to rise to over £10.50 an hour by 2024.
  • In an effort to ease cost of living pressures, fuel duty will remain frozen. There will also be a freeze in duty rates for beer, cider and spirits, and the 5% rate of VAT on women’s sanitary products will be scrapped from 1 January 2021.


What it might mean for you if you are self-employed/a locum

  • The increase in the national insurance contributions (NICs) thresholds will save self-employed people approximately £78 in 2020-21.
  • In response to COVID-19 the government said it would make it easier for self-employed people to receive benefits to supplement income lost through sickness or the need to self-isolate.
  • The government also committed to making it easier for self-employed people to navigate the tax system and to apply for a mortgage. The NCHA will monitor these developments on behalf of self-employed members. 



  • The government had already committed to an additional £33.9 billion a year for the NHS by 2024. This year includes an additional £6 billion of new funding, which will be used to support more GP appointments, more nurses and support with hospital car park charges. 
  • The chancellor announced that in 2020-21, £100 million will be directed to making progress on 40 new hospital projects announced as part of the Health Infrastructure Plan. The government will also provide £683 million additional funding to the Department of Health and Social Care to protect the level of NHS operational capital investment.
  • No specific announcements were made of new funding or projects for audiology. 

AAA conference cancelled

The American Academy of Audiology (AAA) Board of Directors cancelled the annual AA Conference this week as a result of COVID-19. The event was planned to take place on 11 March, but in a statement the AAA said it was cancelled because: “In an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our attendees and the patients they serve (who may be part of at-risk populations)”.     


Chief Scientific Officer Strategy published

This week the Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) for NHS England published Science in healthcare: Delivering the NHS Long Term Plan. 

The strategy focuses mainly on areas of healthcare science in the Long Term Plan, but also makes a few references to hearing loss and audiology, with a greater focus on technology. For example, the CSO report notes how new technology could help people with hearing loss self-manage and access remote support from clinicians, reducing the “need for patients to travel to hospital”. It also claims that advances in hearing-aid technology had reduced “the need for costly audiology appointments and providing better patient satisfaction and improved clinical outcomes”.





GPs reject PCN contract

GPs at the LMC conference have voted to reject the primary care network (PCN) contract agreed by the BMA and NHS in February, reports the HSJ.

The vote, although non-binding, potentially disrupts one of NHS England’s flagship policies in the Long Term Plan. GPs reported that PCN contracts present a ‘Trojan horse’, shifting unsustainable levels of work from secondary to primary care without sufficient investment and represents an “existential threat to the independent contractor model”.