In November 2017, we published our report on the experiences of people with hearing loss when they are accessing GP surgeries or hearing aid maintenance.

We sent this report with our recommendations to Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) in Buckinghamshire.* In February 2018, we received the following response from the CCGs.

Our recommendation: the CCG to provide advice, support and training to help GPs to implement the accessible information standard as it relates to people with hearing loss

Whilst we might wish to provide advice, support and training to implement the accessible information standard, this is a responsibility that practices have in their own right. However, we have signposted practices to online resources that could help in training practice staff.

Our recommendation: the CCG to put in place central arrangements to understand whether improvements made to support access are having an impact from a patient perspective

It would not be practical to put in place central arrangements to evidence improvements on access for this single issue. You may know that NHS England undertakes a patient survey every year which covers issues such as access and disability. As part of our work in the emerging Integrated Care System, it is possible we will undertake a Bucks patient survey on access to and experience of Primary Care to build on the national one. If we do decide to do that, we would be happy to include a specific question on the experience of access to general practice for those with hearing loss.

In addition, NHS England sometimes offers capital funding in the form of a grant to make general improvements at practice level, including disability access. The CCG ensures that all practices are made aware of the opportunity to bid for funding when it is made available.

Our recommendation: the CCG to ensure that people who have hearing loss are engaged in designing any processes designed to help them.

As commissioners, we do endeavour to engage people with disability and protected characteristics when we design new services. We are currently setting up an Inequalities Advisory Group and would welcome membership from an individual with hearing loss to help inform our work.

Healthwatch Bucks has passed the request for support in finding a participant with hearing loss for the Inequalities Advisory Group onto Action on Hearing Loss to see if they can help.

We are also pleased to note the CCG response to our recommendations regarding their work with GP practices:

General Practices across Bucks are recommended, in support of their responsibility to enable equal access for people with hearing loss under the terms of their contract, to provide patient information such as a leaflet and/or website page which includes access arrangements that the practice has for providing services to disabled patients.

The CCGs will also suggest practices and their Patient Participation Groups review their own position in light of the report’s recommendations in respect of:

  • Providing deaf awareness training for all staff, especially those working in the front line
  • Making available a range of communication systems to support accessibility for people with hearing loss and ensuring that patients are aware of these options
  • Using screens which call people to their appointments
  • Regularly asking about, recording and flagging up patients communication needs
  • Effective and timely use of the system for booking BSL interpreters
  • Ensuring the accessible information standard is in place as it relates to people with hearing loss

What are we doing next?

We have asked the CCGs to let us know when they will be circulating our report to GP practices and their Patient Participation Groups (PPGs). We will also continue to talk with individual GP practices about improving the experiences of people with hearing loss when they are accessing GP services.

Healthwatch Bucks’ role is to ensure that the voice of Bucks residents makes a positive difference to health and social care. We have a strong track record of developing public surveys that deliver responses with real depth and detail. To ensure that the patient voice is central to the future health and social care services, we would be happy to support any future patient surveys planned by the Clinical Commissioning Groups.

 

*Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust runs Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

The Clinical Commissioning Groups are NHS bodies that buy the services that we use such as A&E, outpatient services, maternity services and community health services.

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