AT a time when 40 per cent of hospitals are making cuts in their hearing departments, it has been revealed that East Lancashire’s hearing services are to be boosted.

The East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT), which runs audiology departments in Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals, wants to buck the trend, by looking at new ways to help patients.

Ian Whiston, head of hearing and balance services for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, sent out a reassuring message.

He said: “We are looking to expand the service and are working closely with our commissioners to introduce a service for potential new users.

“This is an exciting new development and there are no plans to reduce any existing services.”

No further details on the expansion of services have been made available by the ELHT.

There are an estimated 10 million people living with hearing loss in the UK; one in six of the population is affected at any one time. Around six million people experience tinnitus.

A national survey by charity Action on Hearing Loss from 128 hospitals found that 43 per cent had seen cuts in the past 18 months, because of Government cutbacks.

The investigation found that 16 per cent of trusts had to reduce their follow-up appointments, 15 per cent experienced an increase in waiting times, eight per cent had to reduce the number of specialist staff for complex cases; two trusts changed their policies on bilateral hearing aids; and one trust had stopped its hearing therapy.

Chief executive for Action on Hearing Loss, Paul Breckell, says: “People with hearing loss have the right to expect the very best local services so it’s concerning that so many audiology departments have already felt the impact of budget cuts.”