§ John Cryer
To ask the Secretary of State for Health (I) what directions he has issued to hospital trusts involved in the first and second waves of the hearing aids modernisation project on ensuring audiology patients have access to digital hearings; 
(2) what his policy is on using age as a criterion for access to digital hearing aids under the hearing aids modernisation project; 491W
(3) if he will make a statement on progress with fitting digital hearing aids for analogue hearing aid users within first wave sites of the hearing aids modernisation project; 
(4) whether first wave sites involved in the digital hearing aids modernisation project started fitting digital hearing aids to new patients before dealing with existing patients. 
§ Jacqui Smith
We have no evidence of audiology departments discriminating against any age group in the fitting of digital hearing aids. Such discrimination would not be acceptable.
Most first wave sites fitted new patients when they were first modernised and then extended this to include review patients. However, this is a matter for local discretion and some current sites are fitting both new and review patients concurrently from the start. The Royal National Institute for the Deaf has issued guidelines to audiologists in sites taking part in the modernising hearing aid services (MHAS) project. These guidelines advise that patients who have received National Health Services analogue hearing aids in the last three years should not be renewed for a digital aid unless there are clinical reasons why it is particularly appropriate to fit such an aid. The guidelines suggest that patients should be assessed for digital aids if there has been significant deterioration in their hearing since the last assessment, or if the patient has been persistently dissatisfied with the performance of the analogue aid. 83,397 hearing aids had been fitted as part of the modernisation project by the end of March 2003. The cost of finding out how many of those were fitted to patients who already had analogue aids would be disproportionate, and the information is not collected centrally.
General Dental Service: Average cost of course of dental treatment for patients aged 65 and over, 1997–98 to 2002–03 £ Average cost 1997–98 1998–99 1999–2000 2000–01 2001–02 April to September 2002 October 2002 to March 2003 Shropshire HA 28.8 28.5 29.9 31.1 31.8 32.1 1— Shropshire County PCT 1— 1— 1— 1— 1— 1— 32.0 Telfore and wrekin PCT 1— 1— 1— 1— 1— 1— 33.8 England 34.8 35.2 35.8 36.2 36.7 37.4 37.0 1 Data is not available