The latest company news from NHS Supply Chain

Company news

An open letter from Dawn Bramham, Chair of the Audiology Supplies Group (ASG) to the Audiology community

Dawn Bramham

Dawn Bramham, Chair of the Audiology Supplies Group (ASG)

Monday 23 February 2015

The renewal of NHS Supply Chain’s Hearing Aid and Accessories framework agreement last August is something that has possibly passed a lot of people by. New ranges of hearing aids available to the NHS through NHS Supply Chain is a fairly regular occurrence.

  • But how do you know that the aids are fit for purpose?
  • That they work within the unique setting that is the NHS?
  • How do the NHS benefit from what are very keen prices compared to the rest of the world?
  • Who checks that the hearing aids do what they are meant to do?
  • That they work with the myriad of FM systems that education services use?

The Hearing Aid and Accessories framework renewal (August 2014) was the culmination of two years work by the Audiology Supplies Group (ASG), Public Health England, suppliers and NHS Supply Chain to bring the best possible technology to the NHS, available at the best global price.

This huge undertaking, resulted in a strong portfolio of technology being available at the best global price, ensuring the best options for the hearing impaired community. The two way relationship which we have fostered with suppliers and NHS Supply Chain has placed the needs of the NHS Audiology profession and the hearing aid user at the forefront of everything we do, and will continue to benefit the framework.

Five existing suppliers GNResound, Oticon, Phonak, Siemens and Starkey and two new suppliers Widex and PC Werth (Intricon)) have been awarded a place on the framework. The relationship built over the years has been one of transparency and collaborative working. This means that any queries or issues that are identified are discussed and agreed, with on-going development and change being reviewed as a collective. These evaluations usually take place in the departments of ASG members when suppliers offer upgrades and product refreshes.

How are products selected for the Framework?

For the latest tender we were faced with a big challenge with over 100 aids to be evaluated and multiple suppliers in a short time span. We gathered together a highly experienced team who joined together at the UCL ear institute in London for a rigorous process of testing.

Each supplier provided test samples, software and any other item they felt were required and we undertook a range of tests including test box, first fit and final match to target using DSL and NAL, volunteer REM and RECD, all across Unity, Affinity and Aurical verification systems. A massive challenge that was undertaken with enthusiasm, biscuits, coffee and excellent humour, as well as some very enjoyable after hours dinners!

In addition, the FM working group evaluated the ranges that were offered for use with FM systems, using their specialist skills to check the compatibility and the sound quality through external inputs.

Finally, a patient stakeholder group, with representatives from separate patient opinion groups reviewed the hearing aids from a patient perspective.

Consideration is given to workflow, software stability, ease and navigation, stock management options and the patient opinion, all things that we often forget contribute to an enjoyable working environment.

All suppliers went away with recommendations and observations. The intention of the group is to foster a continual mutually beneficial relationship where the ASG works with suppliers to continue to bring the best value and technology to the NHS. We can only do this with the help and support of the suppliers who have continued to be engaged in the selection process. The new ranges of hearing aids are now available to you , and your departments will be making decisions on which ranges you are going to use.

But this is not the end of the process, we want to know how things are working in departments, and feedback from the profession as a whole is vital in developing. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any suggestions or comments, or if you want to be involved at dawn.bramham@btuh.nhs.uk. You can also contact Samantha Yeadon, a Buyer at NHS Supply Chain on samantha.yeadon@supplychain.nhs.uk or 07850 931 585.

I personally want to say a huge thank you to the ASG members, and those who helped with the evaluations, I certainly feel it was made so much easier with such a committed and enthusiastic group. ASG members/evaluation group:

Dawn Bramham, Cherilee Rutherford, Ryan O’Shea, Adam Chell, Hollie Partridge, Anna Lazenby, Judith Bird, Sarah Creeke, Greg Nassar, Peter Sydserff, Richard Nicholson, Gemma Leadbetter, Terry Nunn, Huw Thomas, Karen Dewhurst, Hannah Cooper and Gwen Carr.

Other audiology frameworks available through NHS Supply Chain include Audiological Implantable Devices, Newborn Hearing Screening, Hearing Aid Batteries and a Patient Audiometry Assessment Devices and Support Products framework.

Delivering value to the NHS