Up to 500,000 GP appointments could be saved per annum with patient self-referral to audiology practices - easing pressure on the NHS, according to a new report.
The report by Specsavers highlights how community audiology and optometry are an integral, yet often overlooked, part of primary and community care that provide a range of ear and eye health services in support of patient choice and a reduction in NHS waiting times.
"NHS Wales and NHS Scotland have committed to a Primary Care model for adult audiology. The Republic of Ireland’s Department of Social Welfare already offers a hearing aid voucher scheme for working adults, like NHS spectacle vouchers. A nationally commissioned primary care audiology service in England will benefit patients and reduce pressure on secondary care." says Gordon Harrison, Specsavers Director of Professional Advancement (Audiology).
"Introducing a nationally commissioned primary care audiology service will address unmet need at reduced cost and take pressure off GPs and A&E departments. More importantly, it could deliver a step change in care and quality of life for adults with age-related hearing loss.’’
Specsavers is developing a flexible workforce of audiology practitioners to help meet the growing demand. "We piloted our new audiology practitioner role to improve access to hearing care. A modular approach to training allows colleagues to gain qualifications quickly, in wax removal, triage and repair, and fitting and rehabilitation, then immediately contribute to our wider clinical teams, delivering the best healthcare possible", Sonam Sehemby, Specsavers Head of Clinical Services (Audiology).
The audiology backlog for hospital-based hearing loss services for adults exceeds 14 months in some areas – while 90% of Specsavers locations can see a new audiology patient within four weeks.
Specsavers commissioned the report as part of its mission to change lives through better hearing and sight – the emphasis not just the impact on people but also the £63bn annual cost of untreated hearing loss, sight loss and blindness to the UK economy.
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