From 1 April 2016 people aged over 50 who develop a hearing problem will be able to refer themselves to the Audiology Service at Noble’s Hospital.
Until now anyone with a hearing problem has had to first make an appointment with their GP who, following a consultation and examination, could refer a patient to the Audiology Service, if deemed appropriate.
Minister for Health and Social Care, Howard Quayle MHK, explained the reason for the change: 'An important component for our new health and social care strategy is encouraging and empowering individuals to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing through healthy lifestyle choices and ‘self-care’ when it’s appropriate.
'Building on this, we want to speed up access to services when patients need them. GPs have a vital role to play when any of us become unwell or develop a medical problem. Sometimes however, where there are very specific symptoms and it is obvious what tests or treatment will be necessary, it makes sense to ensure there is timely access to specialist care – such as when people experience hearing problems as they age.
'By giving those aged 50 and over with a hearing problem the option to self-refer, we hope to increase choice and convenience for patients whilst potentially reducing the number of GP appointments.'
Hearing related problems become more common as people age, which is why only patients over 50 will be able to self-refer, although they can still see their GP in the first instance, should they wish. Those under 50 will still need to see their GP for any hearing related problems to discuss symptoms and eliminate any other potential causes and health issues.
Self-referral forms can be downloaded here and are also available from the Island’s GP Practices and the Audiology Department at Noble’s Hospital. Patients are usually seen within eight weeks.
Those aged over 50 who experience sudden onset hearing loss, noises (tinnitus) in one ear, pain in their ear or episodes of spinning dizziness, should still see their GP.
The Department introduced self-referral for physiotherapy in 2012 which helped to reduce waiting times and the number of GP appointments relating to musculoskeletal problems.