§ Mr. Jessel
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what are the costs of hearing aids of the body-worn and behind-the-ear types, respectively; how long it normally takes to supply each when cases of need are established; and why 14 months have elapsed, without a constituent of the hon. Member for Twickenham having been fitted with a behind the ear aid at the West Middlesex Hospital.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
It is not the practice to disclose the price of commodities obtained under Government contract.
The waiting time for patients for whom a hearing aid is prescribed varies between hospitals. I am advised that, except in cases of urgency, it is about six months at the West Middlesex Hospital both for body-worn and behind-the-ear hearing aids.
The behind-the-ear aid is at present available free of charge under the National Health Service to patients falling within the priority groups laid down in 402W the guidelines issued by my Department. We are having to proceed by priority groups because possibly as many as 1 million hearing-impaired people will be entitled to the new aid.
I am advised that the hearing aid centre at the West Middlesex Hospital has not issued the hon. Gentleman's constituent with a behind-the-ear aid because she is not regarded as coming within any of the priority groups, and that the hospital authorities have fully explained the position to her.
I am consulting the Advisory Committee on Services for Hearing-Impaired People on how we might, within available resources, phase into the programme the very large number of elderly hearing-impaired people who are not included in the present categories.