HC Deb 08 March 1951 vol 485 cc647-50
24. Mr. Erroll

asked the Minister of Health what has been the total cost since its inception of the scheme for the provision of hearing aids for the deaf, including the cost of research, development, establishment and maintenance of clinics, training and payment of staff, distribution, fitting and servicing of aids, and administration; and how many deaf persons are at present effectively using such aids.

37. Dr. Hill

asked the Minister of Health what is the average cost of the Medresco hearing aid, including components, research, development, distribution, servicing and administration.

Mr. Marquand

In England and Wales 118,699 patients have been supplied with Medresco aids, and evidence derived from a recent survey suggests that about 90 per cent. continue to use them regularly. The services of research development and distribution are so widely spread over various Government agencies that I cannot give any useful figure of total costs.

Mr. Erroll

Does the Minister realise that if he were to give such an estimate of total cost, it would show that the cost of distributing these aids was just as high as distributing them through normal commercial channels?

Mr. Marquand

A great deal of the distribution is necessarily made in clinics and hospitals. It could not be done in any other way.

Mr. Erroll

The figure of the former Minister was entirely wrong.

Mr. Profumo

Would it involve a significant extra cost if the users of bone conducting aids were provided with free batteries?

Mr. Marquand

That is another question.

Dr. Hill

As the right hon. Gentleman is unable to assess the full cost of the hearing aids, how does he reconcile that statement with the statement of his right hon. Friend the former Minister of Health that the cost was between one-fifth and one-tenth of the cost of commercial aids?

Mr. Marquand

The manufacturing cost is remarkably low. That is generally known.

28. Mr. Burke

asked the Minister of Health how many Burnley residents are on the waiting list for hearing aids; how many have been supplied since the beginning of the scheme; how many have been supplied within the last six months; and how many have been waiting more than 18 months.

Mr. Marquand

The numbers are 808; 232; 40 and 106 respectively.

36. Mr. George Thomas

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that 3,075 persons are registered at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary as waiting for hearing aids and that only 126 such aids were distributed there in the first three weeks of January, 1951; and whether he will make a statement as to what steps he proposes to take to remedy this state of affairs.

Mr. Marquand

The figures given by my hon. Friend are approximately right. The allocation of aids as between the distribution centres is at the moment under review.

Mr. Thomas

Has there been a restriction because of a recent circular by the Treasury, and is my right hon. Friend aware that a considerable proportion of the people awaiting hearing aids require them for their work? Can we be given some encouragement that the aids will be forthcoming?

Mr. Marquand

Those who require hearing aids for their work are always given priority. I understand that the present rate of production is approximately the same as last year. If anything, it is slightly better.

Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones

Are competitive tenders invited for the manufacture of these hearing aids?

Mr. Marquand

Yes, Sir, certainly.

Mr. Enroll

Would the Minister consider a grant-in-aid scheme whereby commercial hearing aids could be made available to remedy the shortage?

38. Mr. Redmayne

asked the Minister of Health what number of Medresco hearing aids he will send to the Nottingham Hearing Centre in the months of March, April and May.

Mr. Marquand

I hope that deliveries to this Centre will average 240 a month for these three months.

Mr. Redmayne

In that case, how is it that the Ministry sent out a letter on 31st January to say that the position was very much worse and that deliveries would be fewer, that immediately following my Question, early in February, the Nottingham Centre received more than it had had in any month during the whole of the previous year, and that now there is this very pleasing answer from the Minister that they are to receive many more each month than they received last year? What is the position?

Mr. Marquand

I assure the hon. Member that the position is as I have just stated in answer to his Question. I am very glad that the hon. Member put down his Question and thereby enabled me to look into the position.

Mr. Marlowe

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that these hearing aids cost between only one-fifth and one-tenth of the cost of the commercial article?

Mr. R. A. Butler

Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the benefit of the views of his predecessor, who is prompting him so carefully?

39. Mr. Redmayne

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the present position with regard to the supply of Medresco hearing aids.

Mr. Marquand

One hundred and fourteen thousand eight hundred patients in England and Wales were supplied with aids up to the end of 1950. I expect that deliveries to distribution centres will continue at a rate of over 6,000 a month during 1951, but some of these will be required as replacements.

Mr. Redmayne

Was the suggestion, made in January, that supplies were to be cut down, an attempt to cut down the costs of this service for this year?

Mr. Marquand

No, Sir. There has been no attempt of that kind.

Sir H. Williams

Would the Minister supply a few of these hearing aids to his colleagues, so that they may hear what the public are saying about them?