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Royal National Institute for Deaf People Website

Department of Health Website


Friday 15th March 2002


Health minister Jacqui Smith today announced the formation of an NHS Digital Hearing Aid Contract Negotiating Team, reporting directly to her, under the Chairmanship of James Strachan, Chief Executive of RNID. This ground-breaking approach combines private and voluntary sector skills with public sector procurement experience. It aims to capitalise on the purchasing power of the NHS and to secure the best possible price and
contract for digital hearing aids. This will in turn maximise the number of people who will benefit from the additional £20 million investment in Modernising NHS Hearing Aid Services which the Minister announced in December.

Jacqui Smith said,

"I am delighted that the RNID has agreed to lead the negotiations in partnership with the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency to achieve the best possible digital hearing aid price and contract, enabling the maximum number of people to benefit from this technology. Through a tougher commercial approach, and through exploring new methods of manufacture, the
Team will seek radical changes to the existing supply side of the digital hearing aid market."

RNID created the highly successful campaign 'Going Digital' and has subsequently managed the Modernising NHS Hearing Aid Services project in partnership with the Department of Health. This has led to a dramatic reduction in hearing aid prices and NHS provision of cutting-edge digital hearing aids to tens of thousands of patients for the first time in 2000. The Government is now committed to extend these benefits to the NHS' current 2 million hearing aid patients.

Notes to editors:

Formerly Managing Director of Merrill Lynch, the international investment bank, James Strachan will lead a Team, including the Department of Health's Purchasing and Supply Agency, charged with achieving maximum value for public money. This will allow many more people to gain access to the life-changing benefits of this revolutionary new hearing aid technology.

1. James Strachan is Chief Executive of RNID, a Trustee of Save the Children, a Disability Rights Commissioner, a non-executive Member of the Board of Ofgem, the gas and electricity regulator, the Board of Community Fund, the Lottery distributor to charities, and of the DTI Transition Group (Energy).

2. The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) is the largest charity representing the needs of 8.7 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK. As a membership charity, we aim to achieve a radically better quality of life for deaf and hard of hearing people. We do this by campaigning and lobbying vigorously, by raising awareness of deafness and hearing loss, by providing services and through social, medical and technical research.

3. The "Modernising NHS hearing aid services" is providing leading edge digital hearing aids for NHS patients as part of a modernised audiology service. £10.75 million was made available in 2000/01 and 2001/02 to support the project. A further £20 million for the year 2002-2003 was announced on 24 December 2001. This will enable the 20 pilot sites to continue to participate in the project, will enable at lease a further 30 new sites to join the project and be fitting digital hearing aids by the end of March 2003, and will train and equip at least a further 15 sites so they can start fitting digital aids from April 2003.

4. Decisions about which sites will be included in the project next year will be taken shortly. Criteria selection include geographical spread, readiness to modernise and health community commitment.

5. The project is breaking new ground in policy development. The Department of Health is working closely with a number of partners to deliver the project. The RNID are managing the project on behalf of the Department of Health. The project is being evaluated by the Institute for Hearing Research on an ongoing basis. The full evaluation will be completed by the end of 2002. The final report will be published shortly thereafter.

6. Information provided by the project team shows that by the end of February 2002, 24,140 adults had been assessed for digital aids by the 20 trusts involved in the pilot project. 18,351 of these had been fitted with 25,483 digital hearing aids.

7. The NHS Trusts involved in the first wave are:-

NHS Trust Start year
Addenbrookes NHS Trust* 2000/2001
James Paget Healthcare NHS Trust 2000/2001
Royal National Throat, Nose & Ear Hospital 2000/2001
Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust* 2000/2001
Bradford Hospitals NHS Trust* 2000/2001
Leeds Teaching NHS Trust* 2000/2001
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Trust 2001/2002
Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust 2000/2001
Morecambe Bay Hospitals NHS Trust 2001/2002
Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust 2000/2001
United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust (children)* 2001/2002
Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust 2001/2002
East Berkshire Community Health NHS Trust* 2000/2001
Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals NHSTrust* 2000/2001
Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust 2000/2001
Queens Medical Centre University NHS Trust Nottingham* 2000/2001
The Kings Mill Centre for Healthcare Services NHS Trust 2001/2002
Sheffield Children's Hospital NHS Trust (children)* 2000/2001
University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust 2000/2001
Royal Shrewsbury and Princess Royal Hospitals NHS Trust* 2000/2001

7. For further information, please contact the Department of Health Media Centre on tel: 020 7210 5315/5231, or RNID Media Relations on 0207 296 8137.