The British Academy of Audiology hosts a Heads of Service webinar every two weeks. The sessions are designed to share key guidance and information and act as a forum to engage, discuss and share what we are all doing in our departments and to support each other during the Covid-19 outbreak.
If you would like to join future sessions please email firstname.lastname@example.org Previous webinars can be viewed below.
Also included on this page are support documents for different areas highlighted during our heads of service discussions. Remote Programming, supporting the Health and Wellbeing of staff, an overview of Essential Routine Services and information on Registration, Redeployment and Transferable Skills are all covered below.
During our webinars with Heads of Service, areas of interest and further support have arisen. BAA Board has looked at these different topics and compiled further information to support Heads of Service and fellow team members. Also included below are all the documents discussed during the webinars.
As Heads of Service and Service leaders, we have to look after the health and wellbeing, including mental wellbeing, of all our teams in these unprecedented times. We have had very little time to react to this but there have been some really useful suggestions for all that came out of the BAA HOS meeting. Please download the Health and Wellbeing document for ideas and support sites.
At the first Heads of Service meeting specifically addressing Covid-19, many common themes arose and heads of service shared suggestions about how they were continuing to provide routine service provision.
Although services have stopped seeing patients face-to-face unless considered urgent, everyone felt that maintaining access to good hearing for our patients was essential. However, at the time of the meeting, guidance from local employers was variable, particularly about the use of PPE.
Most services were continuing to provide a basic service using a skeleton staff, e.g. with a manager, one audiologist and one admin. Many staff are working at home and it was suggested that it would be useful to have a central list of potential tasks to be allocated. It was reported that some audiologists were already being redeployed. Many services are carrying out phone review/ follow-ups or even video reviews wherever possible and providing a postal service for consumables and hearing aids. Some useful experience was shared:
Overall most face to face activity had stopped except for some urgent ABR referrals (eg for post meningitis or high-risk NHSP referrals and urgent ENT testing. PPE was starting to be used but this was highly variable between trusts.
Hearing aid fitting
It was suggested that where audiometry had been done, hearing aids could be posted out, fitted to coupler targets with fitting done by video link, although care would need to be taken which cases were considered for this, probably not open fits.
This raised a query about how tubing would be cut to the correct length, or open fits sized if sending hearing aids and moulds as a first fit.
One service was considering posting out personal listeners as a “last resort”.
Most services were sending batteries by post, but there were questions from some about post office policy re batteries in the post.
There was a consensus that this was allowed especially if padded envelopes were used.
There were questions about whether impressions should be taken for only “urgent” cases (eg. for a newly diagnosed baby with a profound hearing loss) or not at all. There was a general consensus that impression taking was still being done if considered urgent/ essential. However, there was some discussion about the safety of impression taking and the use of PPE and very variable local policy at the time.
Some services were able to request these to be reprinted from scans by their earmould manufacturers.
For growing babies and children, it was suggested that audiologists request double-dipping and ask for 2-3% to be added on to the previously scanned impression. Alternatively, earmould manufacturers may be willing to use an existing earmould to make another one larger “double-dipped” mould for a baby or infant if the parents are willing to send in a single earmould so their baby is not without amplification.
To post out, it was suggested that registered post should be used for moulds, but standard for thin tubes (easier to replace if not delivered, but rarely an issue).
Hearing aid repairs/ postal services
Most services were offering a postal service for repairs and replacements. There were questions about whether registered post should be used, as there was concern about the potential cost of hearing aids lost in the post. Those that did use registered post found it cost-effective. However, most services did not have the facility to do this and were using standard and accepting the risk. Several heads of service who have introduced postal repairs have waived the charge for lost aids. More expensive items, such as BAHAs, tended to be posted by registered post.
Currently, some services were expecting staff to deliver earmoulds. One service reported that they were using the staff who normally do home visits to do doorstep drop-offs.
Overall, there was a very clear message from Heads of Service attending the meeting that although routine care was severely restricted, Audiology services were still determined to provide essential services (#StillHereForYou), whilst adhering to local policy and guidance. More recently, in an open letter, BAA has encouraged services to contact their CCG to reassure them that they are still able to provide these essential services to their patients.
Download the document: Essential Routine Services
This guidance focuses on supporting graduates in 2020 as well as encouraging clinicians to join a PSA accredited register to ensure their practice is protected.
Supporting audiology graduates in 2020
Measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 has impacted the final year of students in various ways and universities are working hard to support students in completing their studies. This is to ensure they can progress to graduation and join the workforce. The transition from student to clinician may be different in this year and the hope is that the impact of COVID-19 should not affect their employability. One regulator has suggested that new employees complete a CPD portfolio that could be tailored to areas that they feel they could develop more. The expectation is that they should submit this CPD portfolio one year after registering. It is also advised that new graduates should be encouraged to join local or national preceptorship programmes.
Supporting unregistered staff to join an accredited register during COVID-19
Registration in Audiology is complex and currently, clinicians have a choice depending on their qualification. More information can be found here: Registration in Audiology.
The CSO produced guidance for the redeployment of staff during COVID-19 for NHS England advising that all Healthcare Science staff not currently registered are expected to join an Accredited Voluntary Register (see pg 9). Both AHCS and the RCCP are PSA accredited registers and listed in the document.
There are three organisations that hold registers which have been accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) that healthcare science professionals can join if they meet the required criteria: The Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS), Register of Clinical Technologists (RCT) and Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (RCCP).
The call to join a register is intended for practice to be protected within the regulatory guidelines, as all regulators are aware that clinicians may be asked to take on new roles. Regulators advise that appropriate training must be provided should clinicians be asked to work outside of regular practice. Being registered means that clinicians have a specific, identified remit of work allowing registrants to indicate when roles are outside of their practice. If they remain unregistered they could potentially be classed as part of the greater HCS workforce. The advice to register applies to all 4 home countries as regulators function in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Which register to join depends on qualification and route of entry into the profession, as well as employment. Some clinicians may have more than one choice where others might be limited to one.
If you’re in practice but not registered, it’s more important now than ever…