AS we head into the new year there are still too many problems facing our amazing NHS. The biggest problem is that we cannot trust the Tories to solve it.

The UK Government has been secretly encouraging more private health companies to profit from our ill health and disability, demolishing our health budget. I can give just one example to illustrate this.

I’ve had a serious hearing impairment for 25 years. The NHS audiology services have provided me with top-class hearing tests, and having access to my medical records they have checked that my hearing is not impaired by medication or other causes. The highly trained audiologists have provided the best hearing aids to suit my needs with excellent follow-up service including free batteries; servicing, retuning, replacements and upgrading of my aids five or six times, when they have stopped working or been damaged beyond repair. They will even replace them if lost. The NHS uses the same main producers of hearing aids as private providers, and buys them for less than £200.

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Hearing impairment is classed as a disability, and 6.5 million people in the UK are needing hearing aids, which is increasing as so many young people are damaging their hearing listening to high volumes of music through earpieces and headphones.

The Westminster government is trying to hive off audiology services to high street private providers such as Boots, Specsavers and Hidden Hearing. In England they are providing vouchers towards the massive cost of these aids by these companies. Unsuspecting private customers are being charged £2,000 or more per ear for aids costing less than £200. Private providers do not have access to our medical records, they do not provide free batteries, repairs, adjustments or replacements without charge, eg charging £50-£60 for ear wax removal, which any GP practice should provide, as serious damage can be done if it is not done properly.

Every day I get adverts on my phone about these private services. The marketing is misleading and immoral. The say they offer free hearing tests, which are already free, they promote tiny in-ear aids, as the solution to the vanity concerns of users, when these aids are only suitable for about 5% of those with very limited hearing loss.

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The private providers are supposed to have a qualified audiologists in each clinic, and this can only happen by poaching audiologists from the NHS, allowing the private provider to claim that they can provide a quicker service because of NHS waiting lists.

All of us who value our NHS should think twice about going private for hearing aids, otherwise you are signing up to tens of thousands of pounds to solve your disability, because hearing aids do break down and need upgraded. Let’s all make it our new year’s resolution not to use private heath care provision that undermines the NHS.

Max Cruickshank

THE recording of 20,000 Covid daily infections in Scotland on Monday begs the question: “What more evidence does Chancellor Rishi Sunak need?” The number of infections in the UK has been rising alarmingly, yet no new restrictions from Westminster, no support for businesses, no alarm bells ringing.

Staff shortages due to Covid in our crucial NHS and social services, businesses crumbling, shouts from Holyrood and other politicians all with the same message: when will furlough be re-introduced and when will England get in line with the devolved nations regarding restrictions?

2022 brings with it crunch time, and the Chancellor must step up to demands being made. No more dithering, no more wait and see, the evidence is clear: we need to protect our NHS, social care and public services now. The devolved nations await action from Westminster, because it is only when Westminster is moved to action that consequential support for public services and business will arrive through the Barnett consequential, so over to you Chancellor.

Catriona C Clark