NHS Ear Irrigation and Microsuction

Health and Social Care – in the House of Commons at on 19 April 2022.

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Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of access to NHS ear irrigation and microsuction treatments.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Ear wax services are the responsibility of local commissioners, who are responsible for meeting local healthcare needs. Depending on a local area’s arrangements, services should be undertaken either at local primary care practices or through referrals to appropriate local NHS services.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

Well, I obviously want to thank the Minister for that answer, but I was recently contacted by a constituent who complained that she was told by her GP surgery that such services were no longer available on the NHS and that she should consider obtaining them privately. This is happening despite recent studies that link the effect of impacted cerumen with cognitive decline and dementia. Will the Minister consider writing to clinical commissioning groups to remind them of their obligations and patient entitlements?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. There has been no national removal of ear wax services, which can still be commissioned locally. NICE guidance is clear on the types of services that should be commissioned. Traditional methods of manual ear syringing are no longer offered for safety reasons, but electronic irrigation and microsuction should be being offered. If his local CCG is not commissioning such services, I am happy to meet him and them to discuss why not.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

GPs provided the service for decades. We all understand why the NICE guidance means that they no longer offer syringing, but there is a gap in that many clinical commissioning groups are not offering alternative services. We are talking about people with dementia or receiving end-of-life care who literally cannot hear and are going deaf. The Minister must be direct with CCGs on this issue.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

My hon. Friend is right that there must be consistency across the country in how those procedures are commissioned. After today’s questions I will take this up with officials to see why that is not happening consistently across the country.