The charity’s survey found 47% of South East services seeing longer waiting times for children’s first assessments and hearing tests, blaming lack of staff and rising demand.
Since services were last surveyed in 2012, the government has replaced mandatory inspections of children’s audiology services with a voluntary scheme known as IQIPS [Improving Quality In Physiological Services].
The report explains that services who complete IQIPS are less likely to have staffing issues and problems with waiting times. Given the survey findings, it raises concerns that service quality could be slipping without mandatory inspections.
Currently, 85% of services in England haven’t completed IQIPS and many have not even begun. Milton Keynes Hospital is one of the places not engaging with IQIPS at all.
Milton Keynes mum Josie Rowe, whose three-year-old relies on the audiology service, said: “When my daughter was first diagnosed, we had huge issues with audiology. It was hard to get to speak to the right people and waiting times were ridiculous; I ended up crying down the phone before I got an appointment!
“Staff are all friendly and helpful, but they’re clearly overworked and underfunded so everything takes forever. I shouldn’t have to fight to get help for my daughter. We need proper inspections of audiology services so managers can be held to account and problems like this aren’t allowed to happen.”
As well as the report, the charity has produced a map so patients can check the status of local services for the first time. A traffic light system shows where IQIPS is completed, in progress or not started.
Jessica Reeves, Campaigns Manager at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “There are more than 35,000 deaf children in England, and a good audiology service is a vital lifeline for them – but without mandatory inspections, this cannot be guaranteed.
“Currently, thousands of families are relying on children’s audiology services with no way of judging their quality. They have a right to know if their service is fit for purpose.
“We’re calling on the Department of Health and NHS England to make IQIPS mandatory for all children’s audiology services, to ensure deaf children get the support they need.”
To check the map and find out more about the campaign, visit www.ndcs.org.uk/listenup.
The report is avaliable here: http://www.ndcs.org.uk/help_us/campaigns/our_current_campaigns/england/listen_up.html#contentblock4