For the past month, the National Deaf Chidren’s Society (NDCS) has been looking into what’s going on with the Government’s plans to reform audiology training. What have we found out?
1) The cuts are definitely happening. We’ve seen a letter (though we weren’t meant to) from civil servants at the Department of Health saying that “in the current financial environment, this [Government plans] inevitably will mean some reductions in commissions”. We know that local health bosses in one strategic health authority is cutting the number of audiology training places by half. Others are telling existing students that they may not be able to finish the course.
2) The Department of Health consulted on changes to audiology training last year. The consultation closed in March 2009, but government Ministers still haven’t cleared a statement on a way forward nor explained how they’re taking into account views from the consultation. Yet the cuts are going ahead anyway…
3) Audiologists are up in arms. Nearly 2000 signed a petition (now closed) saying how unhappy they are about all this. That’s a lot of angry audiologists.
4) Even though the cuts are happening in England, feedback from professionals is that this is going to have knock-on effects for audiology services across the UK because many audiologists train in England.
5) Digging through audits from the newborn hearing screening programme, one of the most commonly cited problems is lack of audiology capacity. I read one report for an area in west London where 35 babies may been misdiagnosed by audiologists and “inappropriately discharged” because of there not being enough trained staff.
Crikey. With all this in mind, NDCS has decided to launch a campaign to stop the cuts. It’s called Hear for the Future (pun intended) and the aim is to ensure we don’t put audiology services for deaf children at risk. Deaf children need the best possible start in life to achieve their potential and be independent. They need more, not less audiologists, so they can be quickly assessed, fitted with hearing aids, and get the ongoing support they need. Personally, I would say that cutting the number of highly trained audiologists is, on balance, a pretty stupid thing to do.
So what is NDCS doing about it?
1) A letter has been sent to the Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham MP, to set out our concerns.
2) Letters have also been sent to strategic health authorities across England to get confirmation on their plans for audiology training and appeal to them to stop any cuts.
3) MPs are being briefed and NDCS hopes to get a few questions raised in Parliament on this issue.
And how you can help? Well, NDCS has set up a new campaign action where NDCS supporters can email their MP to ask them to support the Hear for the Future campaign. It’s dead easy – bang in your postcode, the website works out who your MP is and pulls up a template letter for you. If you’re happy, click on send, and Bob’s your uncle.
The more people who take part, the more the Government will take notice and stop the cuts before it’s too late. So please do get involved. And please do also spread the word to everyone you know.
PS Apologies if you had been unable to click on the link to the action earlier – a misplaced comma and the whole thing went haywire. It should now be working.