London, Oct 1 (IANS) Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) will start denying people with hearing problems access to hearing aids for the first time from Thursday in a controversial move that critics claim will worsen sufferers’ social isolation.
The NHS clinical commissioning group (CCG) in North Staffordshire is taking the unprecedented step of ceasing to provide free hearing aids to mainly elderly people in its area with mild hearing loss, The Guardian reported.
It is also making it harder for those with moderate hearing loss to get access to hearing aids by introducing new eligibility criteria against which patients will be judged.
Campaigners and hearing experts have criticised the new policy as “ill thought-through, baffling and unprecedented”.
The CCG said the new restrictions are necessary to help it save money. But the charity “Action on Hearing Loss” claims that hearing aids cost the NHS about 90 pounds each ($136).
Huw Cooper, chair of the British Society of Audiology, also condemned the rationing in North Staffordshire.
“We are deeply concerned at the failure of the CCG to take account of the evidence, and the threat this new policy poses for local patients and the continued provision of hearing aids across the UK,” he said.
“Hearing aids are the main treatment for hearing loss and it is of huge concern that audiologists will not be able to give them to all patients who need them.”