Hearing aids scheme at north-east opticians heralds UK rollout
Following successful provision of NHS hearing aids by high-street opticians in the north-east of England, the idea is to be extended to cover the whole UK.
Since 2005, people in the north-east region have been able to obtain NHS hearing-aid treatment from certain branches of Specsavers, the chain of opticians.
To date, the only Specsavers outlets in the country delivering full hearing-aid services, from assessment to fitting, have been in Middlesbrough, Stockton, Coulby Newham, Hartlepool and Guisborough.
The optician has also been providing hearing services at special day centres around the north-east.
As people with hearing problems throughout the UK are encouraged to use opticians rather than traditional NHS facilities, it is hoped that national hospital waiting times will be reduced accordingly.
The hearing-aids initiative is part of the government's Any Qualified Provider (AQP) scheme, which ministers believe will extend patient and consumer choice. Patients will be able to choose from an accredited range of providers, from hospitals to businesses, qualified to national standards.
A spokesperson for Specsavers noted that some 15% of people in Britain are currently suffering hearing problems without taking remedial steps. "By making the service more accessible on behalf of the NHS, we want to remove the stress and worry associated with the condition and help people live their lives to the full."
The spokesperson added that the same quality of NHS care would still be available at Specsavers free of charge to people over 55, who will need to obtain prior GP referral. Useful links