AQP – The Future of NHS Hearing Aid provision?

The AQP or Any Qualified Provider scheme has been available since April 2012. The programme aim is to offer a wider choice of healthcare providers to the public that meet the requirements and prices of the NHS. In this way, patients as well as general practitioners will be able to choose from a variety of hospitals or high street providers based on different factors, i.e. proximity, reputation, waiting time, etc. The whole process adheres to the NHS Constitution and it is free for all patients. What is essential for this scheme is that competition between providers will not be price based but quality based so the providers have an incentive to offer better service, innovate their facilities, and enhance the competencies of their staff in order to attract patients.

Giving choice to the public and offering a much wider range of service suppliers will surely have a positive impact on quality and satisfaction. More than 95% of patients welcome the opportunity to have a choice over the facility and treatment. This is also a chance for providers to interest more people and engage in development and improvement as well as higher delivery standards.

NHS hearing aid provision is also part of this transition in order to offer the hard of hearing and their relatives an abundant choice and convenience. The referral stages are the same as before - through a GP, who may then direct the person to any approved local provider for both a hearing test and fitting of a hearing aid and subsequent support.

By 2031, it is expected that there will be more than 14 million people with hearing impairment in the UK. On average, it takes 10 years for the sufferer to address the problem. This means that hearing loss needs special attention and widespread service availability to be able to meet the demand and to encompass as many people as possible. In addition, a further idea is that the overall quality and awareness of hearing aid services will be substantially increased. Along with covering the essential NHS services connected to hearing loss, providers should demonstrate ability to enrich the patient experience and improve quality constantly.

Through AQP, it is hoped that hard of hearing will have a better access to information and support as well as benefit from additional services, e.g. home and work equipment, lip reading classes, assistive listening devices, hearing aids and the accompanying support and adjustment, attentiveness to prevention and avoidance of noise induced hearing loss or ringing in the ears, etc.  All these options will improve the quality of life of hard of hearing and offer them easier, timely and convenient access to hearing specialists. Hopefully, this will urge people to take more adequate measures to protect their hearing or to turn to a qualified professional of their choice that can help them with their condition and offer them support or additional information all without having to worry about prices. Consequently, that will put a focus on the quality they expect and deserve to receive.

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