I write this statement, on behalf of the British Academy of Audiology Board, in support of the work you have been continuing to do throughout this pandemic. Our joint guidance with BSA/BSHAA on safe working during Covid-19 is due for review on the 15th January. In light of the 4th January lockdown announcement, we do not feel it required any immediate changes as all levels of advice and guidance remain. We point you tolevel 4 of appendix 9 of the guidance currently. (Please note: The levels in the guidance do not relate to the current tiers or other alert levels issued by the Governments of all the Nations).
However, there have been several enquires to BAA over the past days due to variation in local advice to services. For some there is no change, whilst others have been advised to completely shut down, including virtual support.
The national advice is that we remain an essential service for our patients, especially those for whom communication is critical, both children and adults. We appreciate that some services will be reduced due to staff now being redeployed to support our healthcare colleagues on the frontline, and that some services may be sited in or near Covid wards which restricts patients attending face to face.
We want to support you to enable you to provide at least a basic, minimum service for your patients. Our guidance would be that in the first instance you should review the risk assessments of your service that you carried out last year at the start of the pandemic.
As a minimum you should, wherever possible, still offer care face to face for urgent paediatric and adult cases, such as NHSP ABR follow ups, sudden hearing loss and a hearing aid repair service for patients with severe and profound losses who need replacement devices and earmoulds. If you are no longer able to offer face to face appointments you will have been providing postal, telephone and virtual appointments, which can continue with a small number of staff.
If you need local support, then you could consider speaking to your ENT Clinical Director who can support your decision to provide urgent care, and your Infection and Prevention team for any recent updated advice. We know that many Trusts and Health Boards update all services on current advice via the intranet, so it is crucial to keep up to date with those alerts.
You can also signpost your patients to online support and advice. The RNID has stated that they have had many enquires since the start of the pandemic from patients, carers and others as they have not been able to access support from their Audiology services. The private providers of NHS services in England have spoken to Trusts and CCGs to offer to step in and provide support if services are unable to do so.
We know that there is still a high level of uncertainty and anxiety about the direction we need to take for our patients and to protect ourselves. We hope that the joint guidance has been helpful to you throughout this time and if you feel we can offer you more support please contact us.
No doubt we will be discussing this more at the next BAA Heads of Service online meeting on the 27th January. If you have any feedback, please make sure you talk to your Head of Service or send questions to us.
President, British Academy of Audiology