The Hearing Aid Council, universally known within the industry as The HAC, was established in 1968 under primary legislation. It was the statutory authority for the regulation of hearing aid sales across the UK and remained so until its abolition, under The Hampton Review, in 2010.
The purpose and function of the HAC was similar to those of other public bodies and it was funded through subscriptions. It has in public terms a relatively modest budget of approximately £1.3M and reported to a sponsor unit in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. During its tenure the council was run along separate legal, policy, operational and financial departments. It was audited externally by the National Audit Office and in addition it came under scrutiny from consumer groups, the industry that it was regulating, the media and ultimately Parliament.
Its primary business and core role was the protection of the public within the process of the sale of hearing instruments. This function was delivered through maintenance of a statutory register of members, who were qualified under The HAC examination process as well as being intrinsic in the setting of standards within the dispensing of hearing health. It had wide power up to and including removal of membership and imposition of fines which it exercised through investigations and consequent tribunals.
When The HAC was abolished it was the first Non-Departmental Public Body to be removed under the Hampton Review and a report was published into the ten lessons learned from its abolition. On 1 April 2010 the role of regulation of membership and protection of the public within the process of hearing aid sales passed to the HPC - the Health Professions Council. The transition and resultant efficiencies has had a significant impact and this leaner management is demonstrated by the reduction in registration fees from £695 per year under the HAC to just £76 per year under the HPC. The HAC continued over a transition period until its final closure on 31 July 2010.
It is stated that under the HPC consumers are better protected and the industry saves over £1 million per year. Although it is difficult to argue against such progress and the cost saving is beyond doubt, it is somewhat sad to reflect that an organisation that served an industry for so long and so well, is now positioned as its finest hour being its abolition and that other NDPB can learn more from its demise than its historic record. Farewell the HAC and welcome the HPC.