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GPs should offer more choice to patients with hearing loss, says Monitor

The competitions regulator has said it is ‘disappointed’ that too few GPs are offering choice to patients around hearing loss treatment.

In a report published by Monitor last week, NHS adult hearing services in England: exploring how choice is working for patients, the regulator claimed that offering choice in adult hearing services has increased demand by more than 30% in the first year in some areas

But GPs cited in the report raised concerns that the increased demand was being induced by providers and would create budgetary pressures.

Monitor said that the increasing accessibility of the service and the presence of unmet demand were largely responsible and said that they expected the increased total spend on hearing loss to benefit patients.

The report, based mainly on interviews and a survey of over 1,200 patients, said: ‘Choice has prompted many providers to tailor their services to patients’ needs. Patients need to be aware of their right to choose a provider and have access to information about the options available to them’.

The benefits of choice laid out in the report included more tailored services, better value for money, increased transparency and better accessibility.

But the report added: ‘If patients are unaware of their ability to choose, they will not be able to exercise a choice unless their GP offers them a choice at the point of referral. We were disappointed to learn that very few patients were actually offered choice.’

Only one in 10 patients had been offered a choice of provider, only one in five recalled a discussion with their GP about which specialist they might go to, and half of those who were offered a choice were given no information to help them choose, it claimed.

The report admitted that GPs and commissioners raised concerns that the introduction of choice has had, or might have, negative consequences for the quality of patient care.

Monitor did not undertake an assessment of the impact of choice on patient outcomes.


Readers' comments (7)

  • abolish this ridiculous quango and use the resource for something useful.

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  • Older people are going to opticians for glasses and leaving with hearing aids !

    They are opportunistically offered a hearing test which they often fail. They are then swept on to have hearing aids.

    When they had to come to the GP and ask for a referral, it meant that they had identified a need for a hearing aid and were much more likely to wear the hearing aid.

    At the moment many of these hearing aids provided to people 'opportunistically' , languish in drawers.

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  • Azeem Majeed

    GPs are faced with a plethora of bodies that have some role in 'overseeing' our work. Our contracts are with NHS England and they should have the primary role. Organisations such as Monitor seem to be doing their best to create a role for themselves and compete with other bodies such as NHS England and the CQC.

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  • GPs are so useless at everything aren't they.They cannot do anything right.We should just abolish the whole lot of them.

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  • It is all very interesting...As it is interesting that it is possible for a patient to be referred upon request to high street non-audiologist who would eventually have a very limited range of HA to offer, if not only one, which shall be given to the patient to be found 1 month later on the bed side. It get worse, as such as should the patient have tinnitus or asymmetrical hearing loss, then the patient will be sent back to the GP with higher overall costs and treatment/investigation delay.

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  • We have numerous cases of patients given hearing aids who don't actually need them.

    They go for an eye test and co-ereced into going for a hearing test by seeing their GP (wasted appt) hAve equivocal hearing tests and are given hearing aids even they have said they won't wear them.

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  • Of course, we should offer more for hearing,diabetes,depression,the frail elderly,hypertension,IHD, asthma,COPD, Obesity,Autism,anxiety,osteopenia,smokers,
    binge drinkers and so on and etc and et al.
    But we already see over 70% of all NHS consultations on 8% of the budget and are working 12-14 hour days.
    But really who cares about all that. As long as we breathe, there will be every group who needs more and more.

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