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Royal National Institute for Deaf People Website

Department of Health Website


Tuesday 18th January 2000


"For the first time ever a pilot project will mean that digital hearing aids will be available on the NHS" announced John Hutton, Minister for Health, today.

"The launch of this project in around 20 sites in England from Spring, is a significant step towards modernising hearing aid services. I am very pleased that we are now looking at providing patients with improved choice in the types of hearing aids they are able to use.

The project designed to deliver modern hearing aid services, and using digital hearing aid technology, will be piloted in a number of hospitals starting later this year. An estimated 20,000 - 30,000 people in England will benefit from this scheme, which could ultimately lead to significant improvements in hearing aid services for all NHS patients. The project will address the following questions:

· what are the most effective hearing aids for NHS patients?
· what are the best ways to supply hearing aids?
· how can a modern hearing aid service be delivered to NHS patients?

John Hutton said:

"It is vital that the deaf and hard of hearing are provided with a modern service, using the best available technology, prescribed by highly trained knowledgeable professionals. This will ensure better levels of communication with their friends, families and colleagues. The pilot digital hearing aid project is an important step in that direction.

"In order to introduce this new technology into the NHS, hearing aid departments will need new equipment, professionals will need different skills and we will need revised procedures on the prescribing of digital hearing aids to patients. These services will be developed gradually in an integrated, not piecemeal, way.

"To ensure this happens, we will be working with NHS Supplies, who as the world's biggest supplier of hearing aids, will need to make informed decisions about digital aids purchased for the NHS. We will also be consulting with audiologists on how their skills are used to assess and fit digital hearing aids. Most importantly, the launch of the scheme will include listening to patient's experiences of how digital hearing aids can better help them.

"The NHS Executive has also worked closely with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and the Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research in the development of these services."

James Strachan, Chief Executive, RNID said:

"This is tremendous news and a real victory for deaf and hard of hearing people. John Hutton is to be very much congratulated on this major step forward for the NHS as it will ultimately benefit literally millions of people and bring the NHS hearing aid service into the 21st Century."


1. Media enquries should be made to either Alison Langley or Emily Leonard on 0171 210 5231 or 5375 in the Department of Health Media Centre.