People with a sensory impairment should wait a maximum of 18 weeks for an assessment, it was announced by the Department of Health today.
Care services minister Ivan Lewis announced that, by March 2008, patients with routine hearing loss should be assessed within six weeks. He added that it was good practice for the subsequent hearing aid fitting to be carried out at the time of the assessment or shortly afterwards.
Also, by December 2008, all patients with a hearing or balance problem who require care from a hospital consultant will be seen within 18 weeks.
Ivan Lewis said: “We accept that waits in some parts of the country are unacceptably long and this plan sets out how we will work with the NHS to reduce them and at the same time deliver high quality services closer to home.”
The Department of Health will achieve the goals by:
· Better referral practices
· Purchasing extra capacity from the independent sector
· One-stop-shops which provide assessments and fittings for hearing aids.
Dr John Low, chief executive of Royal National Institute for the Deaf, said the move would transform the lives of deaf people and those with hearing problems.