NDCS has again updated its information for professionals on coronavirus and support for deaf children.
Ian Noon writes:
The most significant changes are to:
- Update the section on audiology appointments and NHS routine surgery to reflect our understanding of how services are re-opening
- Signpost to some more links for resources for deaf young people around coronavirus and wellbeing
- Update the section on disability benefits to clarify how PIP assessments are being handled at the moment
I have copied below the relevant updated sections below.
There are significant changes to all outpatient services to reduce the amount of social contact with members of the public who are more vulnerable to coronavirus. Audiology services are now re-opening to provide face-to-face appointments, but this is happening at different rates across the country depending on local plans. In areas where audiology is not yet open for routine face-to-face appointments and the child’s audiologist and parents feel that the child needs to be seen, their audiologist will make decisions on a case-by-case basis depending on whether they have facilities, staff and personal protective equipment available, and what the level of COVID-19 risk is locally at the time. Families are advised not to go to the audiology clinic unless they have spoken to their audiologist first and have been asked to attend.
It is likely that all outpatient services will be run differently for the foreseeable future. There will always be a need to see some children in person at some times, but there will be significant efforts to reduce the amount of time and number of visits needed to the audiology clinic. Changes that families are likely to see include:
- Remote support as the first step – with use of telephone, video or email/text to provide help, arrange to post out any supplies needed, complete questionnaires as part of assessing a child’s use and benefit of their hearing devices, and triaging the need to come in for a face-to-face appointment.
- Being asked to stay outside the building in the hospital grounds until you are messaged to be called in for your appointment.
- No, or very limited waiting areas inside the hospital.
- Limiting of one adult attending with each child
- Staff wearing PPE and masks.
- Visitors and patients will be asked to wear a mask on arrival.
- The use of Perspex screens in smaller clinic rooms as a barrier between staff and patients.
NHS and routine surgery
The NHS has started to carry out routine (elective) surgery again. Elective surgery includes grommet surgery for glue ear, bone anchored hearing aids and cochlear implant surgery on older children.
Each hospital will make decisions on surgery on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether they have facilities, staff and personal protective equipment available, and what the level of coronavirus risk is locally at the time. It is likely that routine elective surgeries will resume at different times across the country depending on the local risk at the time.
Due to the nature of Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgery, and working in close proximity to the respiratory system, many of the procedures carry significant risk of passing COVID-19 between patients and staff. ENT surgeons have been working hard to identify new ways of carrying out their surgery procedures using PPE and other new protective measures. ENTUK have published guidanceon returning to surgery.
Due to a backlog of patients on waiting lists, the risks involved in individual types of surgery, new infection control measures which limit the number of surgeries that can be undertaken in one operating theatre each day, the need to maintain space for emergency surgery, and competition for theatre space with surgeons who look after other health conditions, a prioritisation exercise has been undertaken by the Royal College of Surgeons. Prioritisation goes from 1 (the highest priority – operation needed within 24 hours) to 4 (operation can safely wait more than 3 months):
Priority 2 – procedures to be performed in < 1 months
- Cochlear implantation post-meningitis
Priority 3 – Procedures to be performed in < 3 months
- Cochlear implant in children with pre-verbal profound hearing loss where delay will impact on long term outcome
Priority 4 – Procedures to be performed in > 3 months
- Grommets for glue ear
- Other cochlear implants
Supporting and reassuring children
We know that many children are feeling anxious about current events and changes in their usual routine. A range of resources have been created for deaf young people with information about coronavirus and to support their wellbeing:
- MindHeart storybook for children under the age of 7, available in different languages
- World Health Organisation story book for children aged 6-11 years, which is also available in different languages
- Coronavirus: a book for children, with British Sign Language interpretation
- Deaf Kidz vs COVID-19 online game
- Dave the Dog is worried about coronavirus story in British Sign Language, for children 5-11.
- Stay Home Superheroes – short story available animated with spoken English or in BSL with Deaf actors and aimed at pre-school and primary school age children
- AskDeafTeachers, a range of 9 short videos in British Sign Language about coronavirus.
Deaf young people can also look at information about staying positive on The Buzz website.