The length of time the borough’s hard-of-hearing wait for a hearing aid to be fitted has been cut by an incredible 50 weeks, following a probe by local councillors.
Patients now wait on average just 13 weeks compared to the 63 weeks they waited prior to the in-depth investigation by Wigan Council’s health scrutiny committee.
The cross-party committee decided last year to look at the ‘social and physical impact’ of waiting times on patients waiting for treatment for loss or limited hearing. Nationally, waiting lists for hearing aids have been rising due to the introduction of digital aids and shortages of staff.
The committee carried out some detailed research into the situation locally, using witness hearings, patient video diaries and a wide-ranging analysis of actual waiting times. In its report, the committee said:
“The NHS trust didn’t truly understand the length of time a patient was waiting until we provided them with our information. They responded quickly and have already increased staff and are looking at new equipment and a new style of fitting to speed the process up.
“The experience of patients in receiving the service wasn’t a bad one, but there were issues with accommodation at Leigh, and the long waits were having an impact on patients’ quality of life.”
Health scrutiny is a relatively new function for councils and this report is the third carried out by the health scrutiny committee.
Adrian Hardy, assistant chief executive, said:
“The government has given councils the job of scrutinising local health services and making recommendations that lead to improvements in the health of local people.
“Wigan is clearly ahead of the game in this. An 80% cut in waiting times is a fantastic example of how working together can lead to real improvements for residents.
“Following the committee’s work, new methods and approaches have enabled changes to take place even before the review has ended to reduce waiting times.
“This has happened through good collaborative working between the council, the NHS Trust and patient forums.”
The committee recommended that:
- improvements should be made to the patients’ ‘pathway of care’, removing bottle-necks in the system and using new style hearing aids that do not require additional stages in the process;
- targets should be set to improve waiting times; and
- improved accommodation at Leigh Infirmary and consideration of revised opening hours.