§ Mr. Carter-Jones
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give the number of people now using the National Health Service cordless hearing aid; if he will break down the figures into area health authority and age groups; if he is satisfied with the take-up of this type of hearing aid; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Rossi
Detailed information in the form requested is not readily available, but the situation is that, since the beginning of the behind-the-ear hearing aid programme in 1974, 1.25 million headworn aids have been issued to patients in England and Wales. The original estimated requirement was about 1 million such aids. The figures, therefore, show that we have more than met the estimate but our policy will continue to be to seek to help patients with a hearing loss whose needs until now have not been met by the NHS.
Most patients with hearing loss can already be helped by one of the five models in the existing medium power NHS range of behind-the-ear aids. For patients with a higher degree of hearing loss two new series of higher power and very high power headworn aids are being introduced for patients of all ages. Two models are already available in the first series, to be followed by the second series later this year.
As an interim measure, since July 1980, until suitable very high power aids become available in the NHS range, we have supplied commercial aids on a limited basis. This has provided help to young people who had passed the age limit which previously applied and also helped adults with very severe hearing loss and exceptional medical needs.
It is encouraging that, despite severe constraints upon resources, we have been able to continue to extend the NHS range of aids in the International Year of Disabled People.