War veteran let down by NHS

A SECOND world war veteran spent £2,000 of his own money on hearing aids after waiting more than two years for the health service to supply him with them.

A SECOND World War veteran spent £2,000 on hearing aids after waiting more than two years for the health service to supply him with them.

Ron Bloom, 85, of Richmond Street, Ipswich, fought for his country as a crew member on a Royal Navy destroyer, and was among a handful of survivors when his ship was sunk by a German mine in 1940.

His hearing started to deteriorate in the aftermath of that dramatic episode in his life and he now says he feels let down by the health service of the country he risked his life to defend.

Mr Bloom said: “I think it is disgraceful that if I lived a few miles away in Norwich I would have got my digital hearing aids within four weeks.”

He spoke out after The Evening Star revealed that east Suffolk's health service has the second worst record in the country for keeping people waiting for hearing aids - with an average wait of 78 weeks.

He has worn an old-style analogue hearing aid for around 20 years but applied for a newer digital one when he found out they should be available on the NHS, about two years ago.

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He said: “I went to my doctor and he referred me to the hearing clinic at Ipswich hospital. They told me there would be a wait, of a few months, which I thought was acceptable.

“Then every three or four months I was getting a letter saying there would be longer delays, first six months, then nine months.

“The last letter I received said the wait would be even longer - because they are prioritising children, which I think is completely the right thing to do as they have their whole lives ahead of them.

Eventually his quality of life due his lack of hearing deteriorated so much he was forced to shell out £2,000 to buy them privately.

He said: “I was always asking people to repeat themselves and if there was more than one noise in a room I didn't have a hope of hearing anything.

“It makes me sick to think that if I lived almost anywhere else in the country I would have got them much quicker.

“I feel very badly let down after paying taxes all my life.”

Caroline Tuohy, director of commissioning and performance at Suffolk PCT, said: “We understand that there have been some delays with people receiving hearing aids in Suffolk and plans are in place to improve this situation.

“The PCT board has agreed to invest an extra £400,000 in audiology services over the next few months. Our aim is that by March 2008 all people across the county are treated within 18 weeks.

“All patients requesting a digital hearing aid would have been assessed against their most recent hearing aid test, to work out whether digital technology would prove more effective for them.

“Successful applicants would then have been invited for further assessment.

“If unsuccessful patients believed their circumstances had changed since their last hearing test, the advice would have been to discuss this with their GP, who could tell them whether they might now benefit and refer them on to the Trust accordingly.”

How Ron Bloom fought for his country:

RON Bloom was born in Chelmsford and moved at a young age with his parents to Stowmarket where he worked at ICI before joining the navy in 1940, as soon as he was eligible for service on his 18th birthday.

He worked as a crewman on destroyers, escorting convoys across the Atlantic and to northern Russia, under constant attack from German submarines and aircraft.

But he was closer to home when his ship was sunk when it hit a mine as it came into Sheerness Harbour, with the loss of 92 lives.

Leaving the Navy in 1946, he briefly returned to ICI before joining the railway for 40-year career, first working on steam trains then driving diesel and electric locomotives across East Anglia.

His hearing was further damaged following a fall in the 1960s when he was helping a friend with some work on the roof of his house.

EARLIER this month The Evening Star reported that east Suffolk's health services were taking an average of 78 weeks to supply new hearing aids - the second worst record of any health authority in the country.

The figures were revealed following requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People.

Their survey showed that only Kingston Primary Care Trust in Surrey has a worse record - where sufferers of hearing problems wait a staggering 129 weeks on average.

The figures were complied from research carried out before Suffolk's PCTs were amalgamated into a single PCT in late 2006.

They show that while patients in the east of the county put up with waits of up to 78 weeks, in the west it is only 13 weeks.

Government targets announced last year say that by December 2008, no one should wait more than 18 weeks to be fitted with their first hearing aid.

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