Following discussions over the last few months, BAA has asked for a meeting with key personnel in NHS England and Health Education England about the Audiology staffing crisis. We have a list of asks which we think will improve the situation for all. Other issues have been highlighted in a series of strategy workshops, which we are working through to help our profession move forward.

The initial letter which has been sent is reprinted below for your information.

We have a staffing crisis in Audiology in the NHS, driven by the perfect storm of fewer graduates, more staff leaving the NHS, and an increase in demand from an aging population.

A case of late diagnosed hearing loss in Scotland in 2021 led to a multimillion pound pay out (Scottish Public Ombudsman Report, ref: 201901758), a review into the NHS Lothian Audiology team and the Scottish Health Minister instigating a total review of Scottish Audiology.  In light of the nationwide Audiology staffing crisis, it will not be long before more ‘NHS Lothians’ emerge across all of the home nations.

Since the introduction of ‘Modernising Scientific Careers’ in 2010, Higher Education Institution’s offering Audiology degrees has reduced, leading to a decline in the number of graduates entering the profession.  Furthermore, a survey of London Audiology Heads of Services (June 2021) revealed that 45% of graduates trained in London leave the NHS within 5 years.

The impact of this reduction is evidenced by Audiology Heads of Service surveys from the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) and the British Academy of Audiology (BAA) in 2021. These show:

  • 48% of Audiology services report a decline in staffing since 2019, which equates to an overall decline of 8% in the workforce
  • 9% of all Audiology Clinical posts are currently vacant
  • 65% of Audiology Services have at least 1 vacancy. Of these:
    • 32.5% are Band 5
    • 45.7% are Band 6
    • 9.1% are Band 7

From these surveys, in London alone, it is anticipated that by 2027, 194 additional NHS audiologists (Bands 5-7) will be required.

Furthermore, there has been widespread downward restructuring of senior positions over the past decade which has resulted in an emerging leadership vacuum.

35% of Audiology services are not meeting DM01 targets, up from 13% in 2019 (NDCS, 2021) due to the staffing crisis and Covid-19 backlogs.  It is anticipated that this will continue to worsen due to the ageing population with 71% of people aged 70 or older having a hearing loss (NHS England, 2017).

Without significant investment and the resources to develop the training of Audiologists, NHS Audiology services will not meet the recommendations set out in ‘Diagnostics: Recovery and Renewal’ (NHSE, 2020).

The staffing crisis is significant and without immediate action will worsen until NHS Audiology services grind to a halt. We would relish the opportunity to meet with you in the near future to discuss what action could be taken to resolve the staffing crisis in Audiology.

Yours sincerely,

Kathryn Lewis

British Academy of Audiology President