HEALTH MINISTER Ivan Lewis visited St George’s Hospital on Monday 5th March 2007 to set the NHS a new challenge: to cut waiting times and treat people with hearing problems more quickly.

Ivan Lewis, the Minister of State for Care Services, chose to visit St George’s as an example of a hospital that is leading the way and doing everything possible to provide quick and continued support to the growing number of people affected by hearing problems.

Under the new guidance, health trusts are being told to make sure people with routine hearing problems are assessed for a hearing aid within six weeks, and that patients with complex hearing complaints are seen by a consultant within 18 weeks.

Mr Lewis admitted waiting times in some parts of the country were “unacceptably long,” with some reports suggesting patients have had to wait up to five years to swap their old-fashioned analogue hearing aid with a better quality digital model.

Improvements in technology now mean people do not need separate appointments for assessment and the fitting of hearing aids, and in the new guidance NHS hospitals are advised to set up one-stop shops and use the private sector to help to tackle demand and meet the Government’s target by March 2008.

But St George’s is ahead of the game. By April 2007, the Trust will have cut its waiting times for all GP referrals to an audiology consultant to 11 weeks and referrals to an audiologist to within 13 weeks. By redesigning its service to deliver better care for patients, St George’s has also been able to significantly reduce its diagnostic and hearing aid fitting times for both adult and paediatric patients.

Launching the national guidelines, Mr Lewis insisted that there were no staffing or funding issues that would prevent the NHS meeting this target. He said:

“We know from examples of the best, such as here at St George’s, that people on the front line can make this happen.”

Notes to editors

  1. For more information, contact Daniel Pople, Communications Manager at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, on 020 8725 5151 or e-mail