A new toolkit to help nurses improve hospital care for older patients with hearing loss is being launched this week, as part of a joint initiative between a charity and an acute trust in the Midlands.
The set of measures are being launched by Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and Action on Hearing Loss – formerly known as the Royal National Institute for Deaf People – on 30 April.
“Small measures will make an immense difference if implemented at pace and scale”
The toolkit of practical solutions and recommendations is the result of a two year project, funded by the Department of Health.
It follows research carried out by the charity that found over 70% of elderly patients did not fully understand what staff were saying to them and two in five felt that they were not fully involved in decisions made regarding their care.
Louise Pritchard, executive director of services at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “Most people over 80 have a hearing loss, which means that the majority of patients are likely to face communication difficulties during their hospital stay.
“Unfortunately hearing loss remains an invisible disability despite its prevalence, but our new nursing practice toolkit advises healthcare professionals how to improve the experience of older people with hearing loss providing practical and affordable suggestions for improvements.”
She added: “Small measures will make an immense difference if implemented at pace and scale.”
During the project’s two-year pilot, health professionals were trained to recognise hearing loss, understand basic hearing aid maintenance and were provided with a support kit to maintain and repair hearing aids.
Action on Hearing Loss also introduced communication support equipment on the wards, such as personal listeners, which had a hugely positive effect on patient- nurse relationships.
The recommendations and suggestions in the toolkit can be applied in a number of healthcare settings, including in wider health and social care provision and will be available UK wide.
The trust and charity piloted the toolkit in an elderly care assessment unit at Heartlands Hospital. Key initiatives tried out included:
- Training for healthcare staff on hearing aid maintenance and understanding hearing loss
- A protocol to ensure steps are taken to address hearing loss and refer patients to appropriate services and support
- Storage boxes to keep hearing aids safe and the use of a screening device to test for hearing loss
- Communication equipment and hearing aid maintenance kits on the ward to help staff and patients communicate more effectively
Key improvements that were observed included that patients were able to better give informed consent for treatment, fewer hearing aids were lost on the wards and patient hospital stays were shorter.
Health minister Norman Lamb said: “Every one of us should expect to receive great care delivered by well-trained and compassionate staff.
“Good communication between health professionals and patients is essential and I am pleased to support this resource, which has already resulted in improved experiences and better care for older people with hearing loss.”
The toolkit is available as a free download