Study highlights inadequacies of tinnitus patient care in UK
Last updated on 23 May 2013
The British Tinnitus Association has welcomed the findings of a recent study into the practice of care for tinnitus among UK-based General Practitioners¹.
The research identifies that many GPs have an unmet need for specific GP training on tinnitus management. The BTA believes this situation is leading to inconsistent and inadequate advice being given to tinnitus patients throughout the country, and is resulting in widespread dissatisfaction and unnecessary distress among many of the 10% of the population who experience tinnitus.
The research was conducted by the team at The University of Nottingham’s NIHR National Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing during 2010 and published earlier this year in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. The project, which was funded in part by the BTA, aimed to evaluate approaches to tinnitus management in General Practice across England. It was co-authored by a member of the BTA’s Professional Advisers’ Committee, Derek Hoare, and BTA Trustee Deb Hall, and won the coveted British Academy of Audiology (BAA) Poster Prize.
The findings of the study were based on the responses of 368 GPs across England and concluded that country-wide there are opportunities to improve the tinnitus management care offered by GPs.
Key findings of the study included:
- approximately 750,000 tinnitus consultations take place in England each year
- inconsistencies in referral and knowledge about tinnitus were identified, despite a Department of Health’s Good Practice Guide which aims to promote equity of care
- a third of patients are unsatisfied with the treatment they receive, citing GPs lack of knowledge on tinnitus, and their insensitivity to the ‘burden’ of tinnitus
- just 12% of GPs access relevant charity websites, such as that of the British Tinnitus Association, as a source of information
- only 36% of GPs refer tinnitus patients to self-help groups, and just 35% of GPs provide information leaflets about tinnitus.
Approximately ten per cent of the UK population experience tinnitus at some point in their lives, yet despite its prevalence there has been, to date, a distinct lack of comprehensive research into the management of the condition.
David Stockdale, CEO of the British Tinnitus Association, said: “The BTA has long suspected that tinnitus management offered by GPs throughout the UK varies significantly. This study confirms this and has also identified that, shockingly, a large proportion of people who experience tinnitus are not being given information about tinnitus management or referred to the BTA or support groups in their local area.
He continued: “All these resources could be of significant help to the individuals concerned, and in fact, could prove to be a lifeline for many. I would urge anyone who experiences tinnitus to get in touch with the BTA to access the latest information and advice.”
The BTA provides bursaries for research projects and also is working with GPs to improve their knowledge of tinnitus and of effective tinnitus management strategies. Health practitioners interested in finding out more should contact the BTA on 0114 250 9922 or visit www.tinnitus.org.uk/for-health-professionals.
¹ Suliman K. El-Shunnar MRCS, Derek J. Hoare PhD, Sandra Smith BSc, Phillip E. Gander PhD, Sujin Kang MA, Kathryn Fackrell and Deborah A. Hall PhD, ‘Primary care for tinnitus: practice and opinion among GPs in England’ Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, May 2011
A version of this article originally appeared in the Autumn 2011 issue of Quiet
The BTA has long suspected that tinnitus management offered by GPs throughout the UK varies significantly.