As a direct result of feedback from people in mid Essex and healthcare professionals, Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has agreed to continue funding hearing aids for mild hearing loss and GP-accessed physiotherapy on the NHS.
The CCG Board took the decision during its bi-monthly meeting in public on Thursday (24 March).
Dr Donald McGeachy, Medical Director of Mid Essex CCG, said: “This is a great outcome for both patients and the NHS. We have put the strong relationship we have with the hospital trust and other healthcare providers to work, building new models of care that will maintain the services patients have told us they want to see while still recognising the CCG’s budget restraints.
“Discussions between medical professionals and interested parties have been positive and fruitful, showing what we can do when we work together as clinicians and patients. We are very grateful to all the people who offered their input throughout the consultation and the conversations that followed.
“I am very pleased that Board has been able to agree continued funding for physiotherapy accessed through GPs and hearing aids for mild hearing loss in our area.”
CCG Board members deferred a decision on the proposals to restrict hearing aids and GP-access physiotherapy at its meeting in January so that the CCG could continue, with healthcare providers, to develop alternative cost-saving options.
The proposals had been part of a public consultation, from November to December 2015, on changes to local healthcare.
The consultation asked people to share their views on four potential changes:
- To not routinely fund prescriptions for gluten-free foods
- To not routinely fund hearing aids for people with mild hearing loss
- To not routinely fund vasectomy and female sterilisation
- Options to change GP-accessed physiotherapy
On Thursday (24 March), CCG Board members considered alternative options put forward for audiology and GP-accessed physiotherapy and agreed to continue funding both on the NHS, although there may be some changes to the way they are provided.
A new model for GP-accessed physiotherapy, suggested by Provide, aims to reduce waiting times for the patients who need physiotherapy and deliver £200,000 of saving compared to the current total CCG spend on the service.
Meanwhile, audiologists at Mid Essex Hospital Trust (MEHT) put forward a proposal to change the way patients are referred for hearing assessments, and for a more efficient “one-stop shop” for fitting hearing aids and a review of how often patients are assessed afterwards.
Together with a new national framework for buying hearing care due to be announced in April, the CCG believes it will still be possible to supply hearing aids for people with mild hearing loss – and the Board agreed.