§ Mr. Yeo
The Institute of Hearing Research estimates that the number of people who could benefit from a hearing aid is about 4.4 million. The majority of these are likely to be elderly people.
Hearing aids are available through the national health service, normally on referral from hospital ear, nose and throat departments. We have funded a number of pilot projects for direct referral by general practitioners to audiology departments. The result of the projects will be available shortly.
§ Mr. Byers
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she will take to ensure that war pensioners in the Newcastle area suffering from deafness have access to342W adequate ear, nose and throat facilities; and how meeting the present demand affects the NHS provisions for the general public who are hearing impaired or profoundly deaf.
§ Mr. Yeo
District health authorities are responsible for purchasing services, including ear, nose and throat services, to meet the health needs of their resident population. There is a long-standing arrangement whereby, subject to considerations of clinical need, war pensioners receive priority in examination and treatment in national health service hospitals, in connection with the condition(s) for which they receive a pension or gratuity. I understand that special clinics for war pensioners have. been set up at the Freeman NHS trust and there has been no reduction in the service offered to other patients.