22 April 2003

Lagging behind in hearing loss treatment

Scotland is struggling to keep up with the rest of the United Kingdom in the treatment of hearing loss.

The Scottish Executive responded to a devastating report on the state of the provision of care to people with hearing loss by allocating GBP 8 million for investment in hearing services. But according to the report, the estimated cost of bringing services up to standard would be GBP 30 million.

The report, commissioned by the Executive in 2001 and published by the Public Health Institute of Scotland in November, 2002, concluded that Scottish audiology services suffered from inadequate facilities, staff shortages, financial pressures and outcomes that were inferior to the rest of the UK and overseas.

The Public Health Institute said audiology services have been at the bottom of the list of priorities because hearing loss rarely results in the death of a patient. The report recommended investments to rebuild the audiology services. While the services have declined, the demand has increased. In addition, the report called for implementation of hearing screening for newborn babies, improved staff training and organization, and the development of good working practices.

Deputy Health Minister Mary Mulligan said that hearing impairment affects 15% of the Scottish population. She added that the Scottish Executive is fully committed to the principle of modernising audiology services and that the National Health Service Boards in Scotland will be asked to develop modernisation action plans for hearing aid services.

Sources: www.health-news.co.uk and www.bbc.co.uk

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