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Calls for GP practices to restore ear wax removal services

Calls for GP practices to restore ear wax removal services

A leading hearing charity has called for ear wax removal services to be restored in GP practices, warning that its decommissioning has led to patients resorting to dangerous alternatives.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) said patients are risking injury and hearing loss by turning to dangerous tools to remove ear wax themselves.

In a new report, the charity called on the DHSC, NHS England and local health bodies to explore new models for delivering ear wax removal services in primary care.

RNID is also asking anyone unable to access ear wax removal on the NHS to email their MP, MSPs, MSs, or MLAs, calling on them to make sure advice and guidance on wax removal services is improved and everyone who needs professional ear wax removal can get it.  

The charity surveyed 1,491 people with ear wax build-up, finding that most had symptoms such as hearing loss (73%), tinnitus (37%), earache (48%), and dizziness (23%).

Two-thirds of respondents (66%) said that they had been told that ear wax removal was no longer available on the NHS and more of a quarter could not afford to get their ear wax removed privately.

Two-thirds (66%) also did not not feel confident removing their own ear wax, however 71% had still attempted it.

Of these 76% had used ear drops – which is a recommended option – however many also reported using methods classed as dangerous, including hair clips, paper clips, toothpicks, cotton buds, and Hopi ear candles.

Private ear wax removal, costing anywhere from £50-100, is likely to be ‘beyond the means of most households’, especially since some people need to have their wax build up removed as many as 3-4 times a year, the RNID warned.

Some survey respondents were sent to hospital to have their wax build-up removed on the NHS, which the RNID said was ‘untimely’ and ‘inconvenient’ for patients, and resulted in ‘wasted time and resources, and unnecessary extra costs to the NHS’.

The RNID report said: ‘Our findings show that existing advice on self-management is not consistently applied, and, even when followed, does not appear to resolve the problem for many people. For those that attempt self-management but still need to seek professional treatment, very few are able to access NHS ear wax removal services.

‘These findings support the need for consistent advice on self-management of ear wax, and steps to take should the first line of treatment be unsuccessful.’

RNID associate director for health Crystal Rolfe said: ‘Someone with ear wax build-up used to be treated in a week at their GP, but now the service has been withdrawn people who can’t afford private treatment are left with no options. This isn’t good enough. Ear wax removal services must be available on the NHS for everyone who needs them.’

Ear wax removal services were among procedures that GP practices were advised to scrap during the Covid pandemic.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Patrufini Duffy 30 November, 2022 3:51 pm

No chance. Next story. Pay for your own equipment and staff time. Yes, definitely charity work. Untariffed.

Simon Braybrook 30 November, 2022 6:26 pm

Pay GPs £50-100 per time to do it and I’m sure some of them will be able to. It’s not rocket science: if a service costs more to run than it’s funded it’s not going to be sustainable.

Turn out The Lights 30 November, 2022 9:33 pm

Needs to be commissioned if wanted.

Dr N 1 December, 2022 8:46 am

It was never commissioned and hence never funded in my area. The general public have just got to get use to paying for non-essential non-urgent health care or pay more taxes.

David Banner 1 December, 2022 10:45 am

My Practice still performs wax removal gratis, but shaming all GPs to do the same is outrageous. As stated above, the next Contract should commission wax removal for a reasonable fee per patient as we do with Minor Surgery.

David Church 1 December, 2022 12:39 pm

It is not just the lack of funding that inhibits this service, but the removal of the equipment from GP surgeries and upgrades in the infection control and safety requirements, and obstructive new certification and training requirements, alongside most areas having recommissioned the service from another contractor, who then makes a commercial decision to stop providing it at that price (possible keeping the funding and equipment)
It makes effective examination difficult when we are not able to clear obstructions to view.