NHS Lothian failings prompts independent review of audiology services announced by Health Secretary Humza Yousaf
A review has been launched by the Scottish Government into audiology services across the country following “horrendous” mistakes by NHS Lothian which led to children being identified as deaf years later than they should have.
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Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said an independent chair would be appointed to lead the review, which will cover services for both children and adults.
NHS Lothian apologised last month after the repeated failings between 2009 and 2018 were revealed in a report by the British Academy of Audiology (BAA).
An audit of the health board's paediatric audiology service identified "a series of serious, significant issues", particularly for those aged five and under.
Of the 1,113 patient records audited, significant failures were identified in 155.
The late diagnosis of deafness meant the children suffered delays in receiving hearing technology which could have made a big difference to their lives.
The report’s findings were described as “horrendous” at the time by the National Deaf Children's Society.
The Scottish Government has said that further assessment of audiology services "highlighted areas of improvement" that need to be addressed.
Announcing the review, Mr Yousaf, said: "Following the unacceptable failures that were highlighted in paediatric audiology in NHS Lothian, I want to make sure our hearing services are fit for purpose across Scotland and this means ensuring any wider issues are identified and rectified.
"The first step of this is to appoint an independent chair, a process which will be undertaken as quickly as possible to provide the necessary leadership and oversight for this important piece of work.
"I will provide a further update detailing the remit of the review, its membership and timetable for reporting once an appointment has been made."
December’s BAA report was commissioned by NHS Lothian after a complaint was upheld by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) in May 2021.
Mr Yousaf said following the BAA report, NHS Lothian had taken immediate action. “This includes the delivery of a robust and overarching action plan and a commitment to provide monthly updates to both the SPSO and the Scottish Government until the actions are complete.”
He also said the report had prompted significant public interest in the quality and effectiveness of paediatric audiology services Scotland-wide and he had written to all health boards with paediatric audiology services asking for assurances about them.
“In reflection of our commitment to working with partners to address the concerns raised, I can confirm that there will be an Independent Review of Audiology Services.
"The appointment of an Independent Chair will be made at pace and this appointee will ultimately determine the phased approach to undertaking the work although it is expected this will reflect an immediate to medium term approach to enable swift progress to be made.”
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said the discovery of failings by NHS Lothian’s audiology department had been “very concerning”.
He said: “It is extremely disappointing that SNP Ministers have allowed audiology services to reach this level.
“Young people with hearing difficulties are being diagnosed far too late. There is a high possibility that other Scottish health boards are not diagnosing young people early enough.
“What we need to see is immediate improvements and for those young people diagnosed with hearing loss late, to be given the support they need.”