This week’s news
Still waiting for NHS guidance
On 1 April, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE-I) published a Covid-19 prioritisation table which included a ‘full stop’ on audiology services in error, which the NCHA helped to correct to a ‘partial stop’ on public health grounds.
The original intention was for these arrangements to apply until 31 July 2020 “in the first instance”.
Since then, adult audiology services have remained on a ‘partial stop’ despite the guidance for children, and young people being updated in early June to allow more care to be delivered.
To date, members of the Hearing Loss and Deafness Alliance, including the NCHA BSA, BSHAA and BIHIMA, have worked with ENT UK to encourage NHSE-I to update its parallel guidance for adult audiology.
David Hewlett of the NCHA said: “Despite repeated assurances, updated guidance has still not been issued. The delay is unjustifiable and unacceptable, especially as joint sector guidance explains how adult audiology can be safely delivered. Many NHS commissioners have restarted audiology services, whilst others insist on waiting for updated guidance from NHSEI.
“Given other services across health and care have restarted, including eye care and dentistry, once again NHSEI seems to have forgotten the needs of adults with aural and hearing related problems.”
The NCHA will continue to work constructively with NHSE-I to bring clarity, tackle the non-risk-based postcode lottery and other inequalities in access caused by the delay in this guidance.
Healthcare registrants to self-isolate on return to England from high-risk countries
Registered healthcare professionals, including hearing aid dispensers and clinical scientists, will no longer be exempt from the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days when returning from high-risk countries. The government announcement brings all registered health and care workers in line with the general public.
The original exemption was to help healthcare professionals abroad return to the UK to work. However, now people are starting to travel overseas for holidays, the government has changed its advice. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for their Covid-19 regulations.
Self-isolation period extended to 10 days
The UK’s Chief Medical Officers confirmed yesterday, 30 July, that the UK would extend the self-isolation period from 7 to 10 days for those in the community who have symptoms or a positive test result.
The change is in response to emerging evidence that people might remain infectious between seven and nine days after illness onset. Read more.
BAA and BSHAA respond to Daily Mail article about Covid-19 in ears
The BAA and BSHAA have responded to a Daily Mail article suggesting that hearing loss may be a rare symptom of a Covid-19 infection. The organisations’ websites point out that the article is based on a research letter published by the JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery journal, in which authors report the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the middle ear and mastoid of a small number of deceased patients. The BAA and BSHAA go on to confirm the research letter has no material impact on existing sector guidance which already recommends enhanced infection prevention control measures when there is a known wet perforation present. Read more.
New BAA vice president confirmed
The BAA has confirmed that Sam Lear, Lead Clinical Scientist in Hearing Services at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, has been voted in as the new vice president at the BAA Board meeting on 22nd July 2020. Read more.
Job Retention Bonus update
HMRC has today published a policy paper to provide more detail on the Job Retention Bonus.
The bonus will pay £1,000 for every eligible employee and will be taxable. HMRC has confirmed that this will be open for all previously furloughed employees who meet the eligibility criteria, including office holders, company directors and agency workers, including those employed by umbrella companies. However, only earnings recorded through HMRC Real Time Information (RTI) records can count towards the £520 a month average minimum earnings threshold.
Employers can claim from February 2021 through GOV.UK with more detailed guidance now expected by the end of September 2020. We will keep members up to date.
More businesses can now access loans under CBILS
Following the relaxation of State Aid rules by the European Commission, more businesses are now eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
Previously, CBILS could not be awarded to businesses which were ‘in difficulty’ at the end of 2019. However, the Commission’s decision now allows micro and small companies, which were classed as undertakings in difficulty on 31 December 2019, to access the scheme. The change means companies with fewer than 50 employees and turnover less than £9 million that were previously declined or illegible, can now relook at the scheme as a potential source of finance. Read more.
The future of healthcare – Matt Hancock speaks to Royal College of Physicians
This week, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock spoke at the Royal College of Physicians about his vision for the future of healthcare.
In his speech, Mr Hancock praised all healthcare professionals and providers for their response to the pandemic. He stated: “This crisis showed that we were at our best when we were looking outwards, drawing on ideas and expertise wherever they may be found – and that means the private sector too.” Read the full speech.
This coincides with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) consultation which asks people who work in health or social care to share views “on how to get rid of ‘unnecessary bureaucracy’ ‒ tasks and processes that need a lot of work but add little value”. The consultation closes on 13 September 2020. Members interested in taking part should email [email protected]