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Region pioneers "high street hearing aids"
11:00am Saturday 8th September 2012 in News
PEOPLE in the North-East with hearing problems are the first in the country to benefit from a new scheme which means anyone needing an NHS hearing aid can go to a high street optician rather than their local hospital.
It is hoped this quiet revolution in hearing services will reduce waiting times to be seen at NHS hospitals.
For several years selected branches of Specsavers in the region have been the only high street opticians in the country to offer hearing loss services to NHS patients.
Now, because of the success of the pilot scheme in the North-East, it is being rolled out across the rest of the UK.
At present, only five North- East branches of Specsavers offer a full range of hearing services, from initial assessment right through to the provision and fitting of hearing aids.
In addition, Specsaver-run day centres are offering hearing services to NHS patients at Billingham Forum community centre, Thornaby library, Stockton Central library, Roseberry Square library, in Redcar , and Guisborough library.
The decision to allow a chain specialising in providing spectacles and contact lenses to provide hearing services follows a seven-year pilot scheme.
The work was awarded to Specsavers following a tendering process under the Any Qualified Provider scheme introduced by the coalition Government.
This means patients will be able to choose from a range of approved providers, such as hospitals or high steet businesses, so long as they meet certain national standards.
David Lycett, hearing director at Specsavers, Hartlepool, said: “One in six people nationwide are currently suffering in silence with hearing loss but, by making the service more accessible on behalf of the NHS, we want to remove the stress and worry associated with the condition and help people live their lives to the full.”
Patients aged over 55 will continue to access the same quality of care, free of charge, as they would previously with the NHS, he added.
To receive treatment on the NHS at any of the Specsavers stores offering hearing services, patients will first need to see their GP to request a referral to their local store.
Referrals on the NHS are only for patients 55 and over.