Ear wax removal for Cornwall would cost £1 million, say NHS chiefs

Posted By on 22nd November 2021

By Richard Whitehouse

Health bosses have said that providing ear wax removal services at GP surgeries could cost more than £1 million.

There has been a campaign in Cornwall to get the service reinstated after many surgeries in the county stopped offering it.

However the service has never been one that has been commissioned by the NHS and was being provided as a discretionary practice.

Those campaigning to get the service back say that it is important for people to be able to get their ears cleaned properly and say this is particularly the case for older people and those who use hearing aids.

However NHS Kernow said that NICE had said that the previous method of syringing was no longer recommended. As a result the new method of microsuction would need new equipment and training and could cost upt £1m if rolled out across Cornwall.

The clinical commissioning group (CCG) said that it was still looking at the future of the service and the best approach but said that there were a number of ways that people can clear ear wax themselves which are safe and suitable.

Andrew Abbott, director for primary care at NHS Kernow, gave an update on the situation to Cornwall Council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee when it met yesterday.

He said: “What we are keen to do is understand the needs of people in Cornwall, there is a lot of self-care that can be done.

“This service was never commissioned by the CCG and that is not just here but nationally. There has not been a decision to remove the service as it was never commissioned in the first place.

“GP surgeries have had the discretion whether to offer it or not, it is not a service which is in the contract for those which need to be provided.”

Mr Abbott said that the figure of £1m had been calculated based on the experience of GP services in Surrey which are delivering it.

He said: “It means if you spend £1m on this you can’t spend £1m on something else.”

Guidance from NHS Kernow advises people not to use cotton buds or other implements to remove wax as this can cause wax to be pushed further down the ear canal and can cause trauma to the ear.

It states that ear wax should clear itself naturally but if it doesn’t people are advised to use olive oil sprays which are available over the counter at pharmacies

NHS Kernow said that it will continue to assess ear wax removal services in Cornwall and a report will be produced by the end of February 2022 so a decision can be made.

BBC Local Democracy Service

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