HC Deb 08 May 1972 vol 836 cc279-80W
Miss Joan Hall

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has been able to complete his arrangements to supply the OL66 Medresco hearing aid through the National Health Service; and if he will make a statement.

Sir K. Joseph:

The development of OL66 was authorised at a time when it appeared that the transistors used in standard Medresco aids might become obsolescent, and that there were possibilities of utilising advances in technology to design a new and improved body-worn aid. The development programme has unfortunately not run smoothly despite the combined resources of the Post Office, which acted as our agents, the contractor and my Department. A series of unexpected technical problems has had to be overcome, leading to considerable delay in the production of prototypes. Pre-production aids eventually subjected to laboratory and user trials have not been found to give any substantial advantages over available Medresco aids, and there is no prospect that they could be modified to do so. In addition, as well as having a much higher cost, they have compared unfavourably in certain respects with the existing range of aids, the performance coverage and transistor supply of which have been improved concurrently with the OL66 development.

In these circumstances I have concluded, in agreement with my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales, that we are no longer justified in continuing this development. The Post Office has been asked to instruct the contractor accordingly.

I recognise that this decision will be a disappointment for many deaf people. We will do all we can to improve existing body-worn aids still further. I also recognise a growing pressure for some supply of head-worn aids and I have arranged to expedite our study of what might be possible in this direction.