A review of audiology services in Scotland has found there are “many areas ripe for improvement,” identifying weaknesses in leadership, planning, training and quality.
Introducing a report that makes more than 50 recommendations, Professor Jacqueline Taylor MBE, the independent chair of the review, said there were also examples of good practice and a “huge appetite for change”.
In 2021, the British Academy of Audiology (BAA) completed a review of NHS Lothian Paediatric Audiology Services that highlighted failures in the care of 155 children over a period of nine years. As a result, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care commissioned a review of services for children and adults across Scotland.
Published on 25 August 2023, the Independent National Audiology Review focused on three areas: the structure, governance and leadership of services; the education and training of audiology staff; and quality assurance of services. It identified a “range of concerns” in each.
The review found “a lack of strategic and workforce planning, poor quality assurance of services and staff training, and an absence of national oversight and responsibility”.
From the perspective of patients and parents, it found “considerable variation” in perceptions of quality of service. It also identified a need to raise the profile of audiology services and improve morale among staff.
“We must recognise that many families were badly let down by these services in the past and this report’s recommendations will help ensure that is not allowed to happen again,” said Public Health Minister Jenni Minto. “Some of the recommendations are in areas where we are already taking action, such as increased funding for staff training.
"What is abundantly clear in their findings is that good audiology care can be life changing, and patients recognise and value the expertise and compassion of staff. We will fully consider the findings and set out the next steps to Parliament in the coming months.”
To make the recommended improvements, the review called for the establishment of an implementation board, including patients and third-sector representatives, that would report directly to the Scottish Government. Additionally, it recommended the setting up of an Audiology Specialist Advisory Group that had oversight of paediatric and adult audiology services.
Among many other recommendations, it said the audiology workforce must be “grown at pace”.
“The wide-ranging recommendations in this report provide the foundation for improvements which will ensure high-quality, joined-up, patient-centred services,” said Prof Taylor. “Audiology staff are working incredibly hard, often in challenging circumstances and during the course of the review process we have seen many examples of good practice. The Review Report is not an end in itself: it is the first step in a process of change which will require time, resources and national leadership to deliver. We hope that the Scottish Government will respond positively to the recommendations and will ensure that the words in this report, are turned into actions.”