Who is the governing body over wax removal professionals in the UK, is it the BAA, BSA, BSHAA, ENT UK, BSO, NMC, CQC or all of them? Feels like we’re in the wild west of wax removal, so is it time someone steps up!
Ear wax removal in the UK was an unrecognised, overlooked and often unappreciated service offered by the NHS via GP surgeries, yet in 2004 there were an estimated 2.3 million ears cleared by irrigation within GP surgeries in the UK (Guest et al., 2004).
As the workload in surgeries increased and dynamics changed, a progressively increasing number of surgeries began to review their procedures and recognise that ear irrigation, in most cases, was not funded by the CCG and was viewed as an ‘enhanced service’. Due to cost, high service demand and safety implications, an increasing number of surgeries have understandably opted out of providing this service.
COVID-19’s Impact on Clinics
When COVID-19 hit the UK, all non-essential procedures stopped, including ear syringing. With the uncertainty surrounding COVID and its possible presence in the outer ear canal, the question was then raised regarding whether or not syringing should be counted as a Aerosol Generating Procedure (AGP) – thus ear wax removal services remained closed.
With microsuction lacking the same risk factors as syringing, private services were able to continue providing ear wax removal during this period by putting in place specific safety measures, resulting in a significant growth in the number of private wax removal services present in the UK.
Audiology in the UK is recognised as an essential service in the UK, and as such was able to continue through the COVID-19 pandemic (A.P.B. et al, 2020) according to appropriate safety measures and practices.
Criteria for Ear Wax Removal Training
Further investigations into this growth have found that many services offering wax removal training courses have adopted a rather relaxed criteria regarding their trainees
Beauty practitioners, alternative therapists and pharmacists have all been accepted, trained and deemed as qualified in just 24-48 hours by some of the most popular providers of ear wax removal courses. This lenient approach raises many questions, particularly regarding safety and competence. It is certainly beginning to feel like the Wild West of wax removal!
CQC Stepping Up
However, there is hope. With an increase in public awareness of private wax removal services, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health and Social Care, is increasingly mindful of the lack of regulation in this area and the need for further investigation. Their job is to monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety.
The Care Quality Commission is an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health and Social Care of the United Kingdom. It was established in 2009 to regulate and inspect health and social care services in England
It has recently been reported that the CQC have now started to contact private wax removal services in the UK, informing them that they must register their service with the CQC. At present this action seems to have mainly focused on services run by nurses.
If all this seems like doom and gloom, try not to worry, all is not lost. It is the hope that CQC involvement will give much-needed and long overdue governance to ear wax removal services, leading to better, safer and more sustainable practices.
Moving through the CQC registration process, whilst it may take time and effort, is possible for the individual practitioner. If you have been contacted by the CQC, it would be great to hear about your experience so far and we are happy to offer you advice and guidance as you navigate your way through this process.