Hearing aids are to be rationed for people in Staffordshire as a result of Tory attacks on the NHS.
North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) will become the first in history to restrict access to hearing aids from 1 October.
Staffordshire’s other four CCGs could soon follow with consultations set to end in December.
North Essex CCG also plans to deny NHS hearing aids to people with “mild” hearing loss.
Disabled People Against Cuts campaigner Roddy Slorach told Socialist Worker, “This is punishing people for not being able to hear.”
Nearly one in three CCGs is considering or already practicing rationing of at least some services.
But the North Staffordshire decision means at least 500 people will miss out on hearing aids.
This marks a significant step towards breaking up universal health care and replacing it with means testing.
Patients with “mild” hearing loss will no longer get publicly funded hearing aids. Those with “moderate” hearing loss will be forced to undergo a “functional impact” assessment to measure the impact on their everyday life.
If they fail to get a high enough score, they too will not be eligible. Only under 18s and people with dementia and learning difficulties will continue to receive them automatically.
Roddy said, “It will mean fewer people being able to study and work—and it will hit elderly people particularly hard.
“The better off get them privately anyway, but where does that leave working class people?”
Specsavers’ prices range from £495 for a hearing aid rated as “good” to £2,795 for the “best”.
The move from analogue to digital hearing aids has also given private companies an opportunity to muscle in on providing them.
Their profits mean the cost is much higher than when provided by the NHS.
The Tories’ Health and Social Care Act 2012 brought in CCGs to “commission” care for GP patients. Roddy said, “It’s the most absurd example of the market running health services.”