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Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 20 June 2006

13. To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will reconsider the decision to exclude audiology from the 18 week waiting time for treatment. (78472)

The 18 week ‘referral to treatment’ target covers hospital pathways.

As a result of innovation, the majority of audiology and adult hearing services are accessed directly from primary care and are outside the scope of the 18 week pathway. Hearing and balance conditions that need to be referred to a medical consultant however will be subject to 18 weeks.

There is no intention to reconsider this principle. However, reducing the time that patients wait for directly accessed services is important and an action plan is being developed to improve access to audiology services outside the 18 week pathway.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of hearing aid services in the Chorley and South Ribble Primary Care Trust area; and if she will make a statement. (78474)

The Department’ policy on hearing aid services has focused on ensuring that the national health service provides modern digital hearing aids. Digital hearing aids have been available at Chorley Hospital since March 2004, with the majority of new patients being fitted within 13 weeks of referral to the audiology service.