This week’s news
Changes to Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) update
This is a reminder that if you are still using the CJRS, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 per person for the hours furloughed employees do not work from 1 September. You will need to pay 10% of furloughed employees’ wages to make up 80% of their total wages up to a cap of £2,500 per person and all furloughed employees’ NI and pension contributions.
HMRC also now plans to enhance its compliance activity on CJRS grants. It will start by writing to 3,000 employers who may need to repay the claim in full or part. HMRC advises that these letters are going to cases where:
The letter will ask businesses to review CJRS claims and to repay any overpaid grants voluntarily to avoid being charged a penalty for any errors in a claim. Members who receive such a letter should contact their accountants as soon as possible.
DWP responds to deaf customers’ complaint
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is taking action to improve its support for deaf customers in response to a complaint raised with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Two advisers made the complaint on behalf of four hard of hearing customers who faced challenges using DWP’s services by telephone. In a legally binding agreement with the EHRC, the DWP has committed to a Video Relay Service (VRS), alternative accessible formats for information, an improved customer information system and the use of Equality Analysis across all changes.
What do you think of Relay UK?
BT has commissioned a research project to hear from people who have used the Relay UK service, also known as NGT or Text Relay, in the last year. It’s looking for participants to help BT make further improvements. Last year, the survey resulted in the launch of an easier-to-use app, so this could be an opportunity to improve accessibility for your customers by making them aware of this survey. Learn more about the survey.
Opioid use can lead to hearing loss
A study by Rutgers New Jersey Medical School supports findings in animal studies that toxins like opioids can trigger deafness, reports the Hearing Journal.
The study looked at records from the New Jersey Poison Control Center from 1999 to 2018. Most of the 41 opioid users it identified had experienced full or partial hearing loss or tinnitus in both ears caused by toxicity. When the hospital discharged them, 21% of them saw no improvement in hearing, according to the study published in The Journal of Medical Toxicology.
The researchers advised healthcare providers to be aware of the ear’s susceptibility to the effects of toxins like opioids when assessing a patient with hearing loss.
Mobile audiometry tests could become common in emergency rooms
Researchers in the US hope mobile audiometry testing can easily be adopted in emergency departments (EDs), following a study comparing tablet-based audiometry and conventional audiometry.
The study, called Hearing Vital Signs: Mobile Audiometry in the Emergency Department for Evaluation of Sudden Hearing Loss, used a mobile hearing test on an iPad-based device in non-sound-treated consultation rooms. Patients self-ministered the test, which took five to seven minutes to complete. The ability of mobile audiometry to detect three or more consecutive thresholds of hearing loss was 100% sensitive but had a specificity of just 62.5%. The authors are reported to have suggested that “self-administered mobile audiometry is a sensitive measure for detecting SHL in the ED setting”. Read more.
BAA seeks new members for its Board
The British Academy of Audiology (BAA) is seeking nominations to fill seven Board director vacancies. All nominees and self-nominees must be full members of the BAA and seconded by two full members. Submissions must be made by 5 October 2020. Learn more.
BTA conference to go ahead online
The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) is to hold its annual 2020 conference virtually from 5 October to 9.
Virtual attendees, including audiologists, ENTs, GPs, hearing care professionals and tinnitus support groups, will be able to attend online workshops, seminars, lectures and networking. David Baguley, Professor of Hearing Sciences, will give the keynote speech on ‘Biobanks – what can they tell us about tinnitus?’.
The month-long EUHA 2020 Congress will also go ahead virtually.
NHS braces itself to tackle waiting lists
The HSJ has reported that the NHS is to spend £10bn on using independent hospitals over the next four years to tackle waiting lists as a result of the pandemic and the capacity challenges it has created.
The HSJ also quoted an NHS England spokesperson: “Tens of thousands more people will be able to benefit from quicker access to surgery and other procedures, as well as vital tests and checks over the coming weeks, as a result of this deal, which is good news for patients.”
In a letter last week, NHSE-I confirmed that independent sector capacity would be funded “either via the national contracting arrangements or through the nationally determined funding envelopes”.
Read the prior information notice (PIN) which the HSJ article concerns.
Government creates new National Institute for Health Protection
The DHSC announced this week it would establish the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) as a new public health protection agency focused on tackling infectious diseases.
Initially, the NIHP will work closely with Public Health England (PHE) and NHS Test and Trace, but the new structure has cast doubts on the future of the PHE, which is only seven years old.
Chris Hopson, NHS Providers, said: “We will need clarity on what will happen to PHE’s wider responsibilities for addressing the determinants of health and supporting work to reduce health inequalities. For more than a decade, public health has yo-yo’ed between local and national, NHS and local government and a string of different national organisations. We must get this next change right, recognising that the NHS, local government and wider public services are all key to effective public health. We also need the comprehensive spending review to confirm proper investment in public health going forward.”