It puzzles me that hearing care services are not like optical services.
You go to an optician when you have acquired age related sight loss (presbyopia), as you are not considered sick and in need of hospital care.
So why not have a similar high street solution if you have acquired age-related hearing loss (presbycusis)?
Generally, the biggest cause of hearing loss is age, way more than anything else, and we have an aging population. The NHS cannot possibly be everything to everyone, so perhaps we need to start a new debate about the route to patient from service provider.
If, for argument's sake, the patient's first port of call was a high street hearing aid clinic he/she would be at no greater medical risk than if the first port of call were the GP. Registered hearing aid dispensers Â have a strict protocol to follow, so if we find that there is an issue requiring medical attention, we refer the patient.
It's no secret that NHS services are oversubscribed. The government reacts by rationing (or at least by threatening to ration) services. This seems to be more evident in England than Scotland and there is what some see as the thin end of the wedge whereby any qualified provider can fit NHS hearing aids often in a high st clinic. So far, nothing like this exists in Scotland.
In fact we are seeing frequent articles in the media about NHS rationing hearing aid services in England. The typical reaction of the charities such as Action on Hearing Loss, is to take a big stick and beat the government. They see it as the government's duty to deliver a universal hearing aid service to all. It is not after all, all about funding?
Perhaps as a society we should be looking elsewhere for ideas on how to change the system. Our nearest European neighbour is the Republic of Ireland, where every four years the state grants the hearing aid user 1000 euros towards the provision of a two digital hearing aids. This is invariably applied in a High st clinic and the patient then has the choice of making do with what 1000 euros will buy, or paying more for a more sophisticated hearing aid system. Similar models of provision exist throughout continental Europe.
There is no doubt that such radical change would be difficult to achieve- especially in Scotland where socialist principles are strongly entrenched and the profit motive unpopular where anything related to healthcare is involved. The old saying 'if it aint broke don't fix it' comes to mind. But is it broken or at risk of breaking or is everything okay?
What do you think?
Would you prefer an optician-style service rather than visiting the GP or hospital?