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NHS ear services in Brighton and Hove go private
5:20pm Thursday 13th September 2012 in News
A private company is to take over responsibility for carrying out NHS hearing aid services in Brighton and Hove.
Tests and fittings on thousands of patients across the city are currently provided by Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust .
However NHS Sussex has put the contract out to tender and the hospital managers have not put in a bid to keep running the service.
Health bosses say the change will mean people can have the tests done in a community and nearer to people’s homes so they don’t have to go to hospital to have it done.
But campaigners against the Government’s controversial shake-up of the NHS say the decision is another indication of the creeping privatisation and splitting up of the organisation.
It is believed the trust did not apply to keep the service partly because managers felt they would not be able to compete against a private bidder.
GMB representative Gary Palmer said: “Patients will see the end of services that they have over many decades come to expect as normal.”
‘Carve up’ Mr Palmer said the private sector, which would be more financially driven, was being allowed to “waltz in and carve up the provision among themselves.”
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals’ Chief Operating Officer Nikki Luffingham said: “As part of a move nationally to offer patients greater choice and relocate services into community settings, NHS Sussex have contracted with a number of NHS-accredited independent sector companies to provide hearing aid services to adults with normal, age-related hearing loss.
“The provision of specialist audiology services will remain with the trust.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Sussex said: “One in six people in the UK have some form of hearing loss and for many people getting a hearing aid or having an annual check up does not need to be a hospital experience – like getting glasses, it can be done on the high street or closer to home.”
A decision on who has been awarded the contract will be made this autumn but it is believed it could a high street chain.