A new report from RNID has exposed the postcode lottery of NHS ear wax removal services in England.
The national hearing loss charity’s new research revealed that fewer than half of Integrated Care Boards, the commissioners of most NHS services, are providing wax removal services in line with public health guidelines.
Some parts of England don’t commission the service at all, leaving 9.8 million people without access on the NHS if they need it.
Now, the charity is demanding change in its ear wax removal campaign.
Ear wax build-up can cause painful and distressing symptoms – such as hearing loss, tinnitus and debilitating earache. Too much ear wax can delay or prevent essential hearing care, such as getting a hearing test or being fitted for a new hearing aid.
An estimated 2.3 million people in the UK need professional ear wax removal every year., the charity says. Older people, hearing aid users and people with learning disabilities are more likely to be at risk. Many people need professional removal multiple times a year.
For many years, people could get wax removal at their GP surgery, but increasingly this service is no longer offered.
The charity said its 2022 report found that two thirds of people with ear wax build-up were told the service was no longer available on the NHS. , lThis means they had to suffer or pay for private removal services, which 26% said they couldn’t afford. Now, new research has revealed the extent of the postcode lottery.
Freedom of Information requests were sent to all 42 ICBs in England, of which only 18 said they fully commission ear wax removal services in line with guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Another 15 ICBs partially commission services, with the majority providing ear wax removal only within limited areas.
Seven ICBs don’t commission ear wax removal services at all, leaving about 9.8 million people without access on the NHS. These areas are Birmingham and Solihull, Dorset, north west London, south west London, Suffolk and North East Essex, Mid and South Essex, Cornwall and The Isles of Scilly.
The RNID is now calling for the Department of Health and Social Care to commission an urgent review of NHS provision.