Campaigners are demanding the reinstatement of free ear wax removal treatment on the NHS, as patients are paying more than £100 to have their ears cleared privately.
Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) has informed the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Oxfordshire County Council that a newly commissioned audiology service beginning will include ear wax clearing free of charge.
This is for patients over 55 – referred by their GP or self-referred – suffering from age-related hearing loss and who require a hearing assessment.
However, this excludes all under-55s and people over 55 whose deafness is caused simply by build-up of wax.
Maggie Winters, of Keep Our NHS Public Oxfordshire, said: “Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group should have consulted patients and the public before this cut in services. What does OCCG propose for people who cannot afford to pay for treatment?
“Official NHSE guidance is clear that hearing loss needs to be properly addressed. This can only be done with a free and easily accessible service for ear wax removal. The obvious setting for this is the GP surgery.
“The service should be included in the national GP contract. In the meantime, OCCG should work with GPs to decide how best to organise GP wax removal services – for example through the newly formed Primary Care Networks – and commission them accordingly. The necessary staff must be recruited and trained.”
A report from Keep Our NHS Public Oxfordshire on preventable hearing loss stated some GPs in the county were providing ear wax removal before the pandemic. However, no one is currently providing the service.
The campaign group expect a Healthwatch report on ear wax removal to be published on Wednesday which they believe will ‘expose the dire lack of provision’ for the common condition.
Rhys Hamilton, a retired GP South Oxfordshire, said: “The OCCG have realised that what used to be provided ‘for free’ is going to cost them.
“They seem desperate to avoid having to pay for the second group of those who are deaf just because of wax build up.”
Ms Winters added: ‘We do not agree with the Clinical Commissioning Group that the new contract is in line with national policy. The implication in the new contract is that people are expected to self-fund where only ear wax removal is required.
“There is inbuilt discrimination against people whose hearing loss is due simply to the build-up of wax, with consequent impact on those with lower incomes. This is contrary to the policy of reducing inequalities.”
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