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04 December 2020

Member update – 4 December

Covid-19 vaccine

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine this week.

All UK governments have now confirmed they will follow the independent advice received from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The JCVI has recommended prioritising those with the greatest clinical need –including those aged over 80 and health and social care workers. Read the full JCVI report.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine storage requirements mean that the logistics of vaccine rollout are complicated and as a result we expect a delay before the programme is rolled out to everybody over 80 years of age and those working in audiology. We will update you with more information as soon as possible.

Covid-19 update

Recent announcements on new lockdown restrictions do not directly affect audiology practices anywhere in the UK. Members might, however, still find the following tools useful to track local Covid risk levels:

New NCHA website and membership offer

This week the NCHA has launched a new website with a wider range of guidance and support for individual and practice owner members. Members will already have received new login details for the website. If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected] or call us on 020 7298 5110.

The NCHA has frozen membership subscriptions for 2021 and made it even easier for members to take advantage of additional benefits such as its medical malpractice insurance and expertise in regulatory defence. Learn more and join the NCHA today.

Remote fitting guidance consultation

The BAA and BSA have issued draft guidance on the remote fitting of hearing aids. The guidance covers ‘setting and verifying the frequency response of a hearing aid remotely for adults’ during the pandemic.

Both organisations advise audiologists to read the BAA’s guidance on remote working and the BSA guidance on probe microphone measurements before using the latest remote fitting guidance.

The consultation closes on 14 December. Learn more about the consultation.

Health policy updates

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published its plans to reform UK-wide professional regulation. DHSC plans to regulate Physician Associates and Anaesthesia Associates, which means audiologists not registered with the HCPC already will not be brought into statutory regulation.

HCPC registrants should note that there are plans to make improvements in fitness to practise, improve collaboration between regulations and introduce more flexibility to allow regulators to respond to changes in healthcare.

We will be monitoring this policy development and working with sector partners to respond to the follow-up public consultation expected in early 2021.

In England, there are also plans to make significant changes to the NHS commissioning, procurement law and reimbursement models. We are analysing these in detail and will be responding to consultations on behalf of members and in collaboration with the Hearing Loss and Deafness Alliance to ensure patient access to audiology services is protected. 

If you would like to take part in any of this work, please email [email protected].

Hospital waiting lists to be a priority in Northern Ireland

The latest waiting data for diagnostic services in Northern Ireland show over 3,500 patients waiting more than 26 weeks for pure tone audiometry.

Last week, Health Minister Robin Swann stressed that hospital waiting lists must be an Executive priority in 2021. He also acknowledged that Trusts have been using local independent sector capacity to help reduce pressure in hospitals. It is not yet clear if the same initiative will be used to help ensure people get timely and safe access to much needed audiological care. Read more.

Other sector news

UCL is researching how and to what extent older people with hearing loss have been using video calls. The focus is on ease or difficulty of use and any effects on feelings of loneliness and isolation. Learn more.

The HCPC has published its new five-year strategy and has also announced that a Fitness to Practise (FtP) Improvement Programme is now under way. It will have more of an emphasis on prevention-focused regulatory approach and addressing issues before they get to an FtP hearing.

Let’s Sign has produced a BSL advent calendar which you can download for free.



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