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NHS Lothian - an update

Published Date: 31 Mar 2022

We reported last December on how we were responding to NHS Lothian’s failings in their paediatric audiology service. In this blog post, we’ll update you on what has happened since and what you can do if you think your family may be affected.

What happened?

In November 2021, the British Academy of Audiology (BAA) published a report outlining several failings in NHS Lothian’s paediatric audiology service, dating back to 2008.

BAA looked at a sample of children at NHS Lothian seen in 2009-2018 (the sample size was 1,007 children) and found:

  • Significant concerns with 155 children (15.45%)
  • Moderate concerns with 190 children (18.8%)
  • Minor concerns with 542 children (53.8%)
  • No concerns with 120 children (11.95%)

The failings found included performing incorrect testing and wrongly interpreting test results, leading to incorrect follow-up and treatment. The report also outlined shortcomings in the historic leadership at the service.

Out of the 155 children with ‘significant concerns’:

  • Cochlear implant referrals were significantly delayed for 12 children, causing 6 to be unable to receive a cochlear implant at all.
  • Hearing loss identification and hearing aid fittings were significantly delayed for 49 children.

The report concludes that improvements must now be made as a matter of priority.

What is the impact?

Some children impacted by these failings were denied access to language and communication, whether spoken or sign language. Any delay to the identification and management of deafness can cause significant impact on a child’s life and life prospects.

Though NHS Lothian have contacted families identified by BAA’s review, there may be some children not covered by the review who have not been identified as having a hearing loss. Even if there is a mild hearing loss, this may have significant effect on a child’s achievements and behaviour.

What is NHS Lothian doing?

NHS Lothian has accepted responsibility for these failings and publicly apologised. They have contacted families identified by BAA’s review to explain the situation and offer follow-up appointments. Lothian have also indicated that they will compensate affected families.

NHS Lothian have made it clear that they will see any child where there is a concern about an undiagnosed hearing impairment, whether that concern has been identified by the reviews that NHS Lothian is conducting, or raised by parents, other healthcare professionals or teachers and schools.

What is the National Deaf Children’s Society doing?

We are very appreciative of how hard the audiologists in the paediatric audiology service at NHS Lothian have worked to improve their service.

We believe that there may be other families who could benefit from their child being seen again at audiology clinics. Some families may not responded to initial contact from NHS Lothian, and there may be some families unaware that previous hearing tests were inaccurate and that their child may have been affected, as BAA’s review did not look at every child seen previously.

At the moment, we are:

  • trying to reach everyone who may have been affected and encouraging them to come forward for a second opinion or for further support
  • calling on the Scottish Government to raise standards in paediatric audiology, and will be supporting the Scottish Government’s Review into audiology services nationwide.

We will continue to support families affected by this current situation, offering support, advice and guidance through our Helpline.

We see this as the first step to improving paediatric audiology in all health boards and services, whether in Scotland or across the UK.

What if my child has been affected?

If you think you may have been affected by this situation and would like to talk through your concerns, contact our Helpline for tailored support and guidance.

If your child has been affected, you might be able to pursue a clinical negligence claim. We strongly advise families to seek independent specialist legal advice if they are concerned about medical negligence.

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