"Unacceptable waiting time"

I took my mother to the afternoon drop in on Tuesday 27th October.

We arrived at 2:00pm and we paid for 2 hours parking thinking this would be plenty of time.

We picked up the card with 16 on it. Number 2 had just gone in.

After one hour I went to out-patient appointments to ask why the system could not be changed to an appointment system (similar to the system now used for taking blood).

I was told that Audiology is not run by the Community Hospital and that having an appointment would defeat the idea of a drop in.

We were not seen until 3:50pm when the audiologist looked into my mother's ears and said "They are full of wax - I can't do anything here today"

Surely an initial screening of arrivals would help with this sort of situation.

I felt that because many of the people waiting were elderly, probably retired and had communication problems they were being expected to sit and take a very poor service.

A working person could not afford to spend that time simply waiting.

I felt patronised by the answers to my questions - as if it was a surprise to have a complaint. People did not seem open to new ideas or suggestions.

I did however discover that you can make an appointment but you will be seen by a volunteer - not an audiologist and they will simply check tubing,ear moulds and microphone covers.

There were a lot of very frustrated and annoyed people waiting for this service.

I am sure that all audiologists would realise that deafness is a condition which is inherently frustrating and would not wish to exacerbate this.

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Response from West Berkshire Community Hospital

Thank you for your feedback regarding the Audiology Drop-in Repairs Clinic at West Berkshire Community Hospital. We are sorry to hear that you had a negative experience and very much appreciate such comments to help us improve the service.

The nature of the drop-in clinic is that it can be very busy; while at times it can be quiet and patients are seen quickly, there can be peaks in attendance, quite often after lunch as you experienced, resulting in a lengthy wait. It is clear from your comments that we can better communicate the anticipated wait time. As a visiting service to the West Berkshire Community Hospital, we will talk to the management team to see how we can better improve signage, e.g. an electronic screen in the busy general waiting area.

We are committed to providing an accessible service to allow patients with a hearing impairment in urgent need, a solution the very same day. Clinics are held every day at the main hospital site in Reading and also at least weekly at our community hospital sites. We recently surveyed patients about the drop-in service. While some noted an issue with wait times, overall most were supportive of such a service, which allows you to drop in any time or day, without an appointment to have your hearing aid problem resolved. A drop-in service also helps maximise the number of people who can access help when they need it. We have trialled a booked repairs system but a significant number of patients did not turn up. We recognise that the uncertainty of a drop-in service may not suit everyone so we also have a weekly evening service in Reading where an aftercare appointment can be booked. We also offer a postal repair service suitable for some repairs. As you note, we do also have a Volunteer Service that complements the above services. This excellent team provides routine maintenance in booked appointment slots e.g. re-tubing, dome replacement etc. We encourage patients to call us if they would like any of the above appointments to be made.

Full information about the range of Audiology services, including the drop-in service, is available on the website, plus also included in the booklet given to patients at the hearing aid fitting appointment. This sets expectations about the aftercare wait times and also provides a useful list of times and locations of our services as well as including practical tips and advice. We would be delighted to supply a further copy to anyone who feels this may be useful.

If your mother’s problem has not been resolved or you have other questions, queries or issues, then please contact the department and we will be delighted to help. Thank you for your feedback.