In a recent debate on assessment for CI’s in the House of Commons (24th of March 2017) the Chair of All Party Group on Deafness Jim Fitzpatrick MP raised the issue of the restrictive guidelines on candidacy for Cochlear Implants and used our briefing. He said;
“The ACIAG states:
Hearing aids can make a huge difference to the majority of people, but for those who are severely or profoundly deaf cochlear implantation offers the main way of hearing spoken language again. We now have world-leading technology in cochlear implants to address hearing loss, but many more people could benefit from this transformative technology than currently do.”
the Health Minister David Mowat responded;
“I will also see to it that the issues raised in this debate, in both the hon. Gentleman’s remarks and my remarks, go to NICE as part of the process, so that it is under no illusion as to whether Parliament has considered the matter, and so that it knows that we are extremely keen that it comes to the right answer. It is for NICE to decide whether the BKB test is right and whether 75 kHz (90dBd) is the right measure.”
The Minister also noted that there is an issue around provision for older people getting access to CI’s; “The hon. Gentleman talked about 5% of adults being able to benefit from the technology. My figure is 7%, but that is not something that we will quibble about. The uptake is much higher among children with profound hearing loss, with 74% of children under the age of three and 94% of under-17s having an implant. That could lead us to think that commissioners do not always consider the technology as an appropriate solution when a retired or older person has profound hearing loss. In a sense, I suppose that is age discrimination.”
And that supported the fact that CI’s need greater promotion within the health system;
“We will make sure that the fact that cochlear implants can make such a radical difference to people’s lives is emphasised with GPs as part of the process.”
Hansard 24th March 2017.
The NHS has been a leader on Cochlear Implant technology and helped transform many people’s lives. The NICE guidance was welcome when originally produced in 2009 but we are now falling behind the access available in many developed countries. It is our health and social care services which will pay the cost of not intervening early for those who could benefit. We are also failing all those people whose lives could be transformed by this technology.