Audiology team cuts long waiters by over 80% against the odds

Audiology team cuts long waiters by over 80% against the odds

18 Apr 2024

Benefits people across all five North Central London boroughs

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At the start of 2023, acute and community Audiology diagnostic performance was 35.5%, significantly below the Trust target of 99%. 628 patients breached the 6-week target for a hearing test in Haringey, Camden and Islington, with 336 more in Barnet and Enfield. 

Unsuccessful recruitment, unfilled vacancies, and a national shortage of qualified and experienced staff and locums compounded efforts to reduce waiting times, and local trajectories showed these would take 1-3 years to clear if changes were not made.

Longer waiting times increase the risk of undiagnosed hearing loss and delay treatment, affecting mental and emotional wellbeing. In children, this affects speech and language development, educational, social and communication skills. For our ageing adult population, this affects personal safety, quality of life, social isolation, and cognitive decline.

Our under-pressure team innovated, including: better letters to reduce DNA rates; calling people prior to face to face appointments to optimise this time for testing and discharging patients; partnership working across boroughs to provide equitable access for all communities; flexibility by specialists to see a wider range of patients to ease pressures; and overtime clinics.

Thanks to this dedication and commitment from staff, our November performance increased to 80.5%, with just 154 patients waiting more than 6 weeks for a hearing test, down by 83% (747 patients) since April 2023.

The team has also campaigned to increase public awareness of the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing population, and has introduced new referral pathways, including from the memory clinic in Haringey to our adult service and multi-disciplinary working. (Research shows hearing aids can cut the rate of cognitive decline by almost half in older adults at high risk of dementia.)

The teamís commitment to innovation and raising Audiologyís profile continues, with plans in place to recruit and train into new posts; and for digital transformation to improve efficiency, patient safety and quality of incoming referrals.

As a result of this epic commitment through 2023, the Audiology team was awarded the Extra Mile team award for December.

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