Friday, August 04, 2006


All those bureaucrat salaries have to be paid!

The parents of a toddler who has become deaf in both ears were told by NHS bosses that he could have the hearing restored in one ear, but not in both. However, after The Times asked North Dorset Primary Care Trust (PCT) to justify the decision, it relented and agreed to operate on both ears. The trust denied that the call from The Times had any influence on the decision, which it says it had been considering carefully for some time.

Kirsten and James Harvey, from Stalbridge, Dorset, were relieved that they would not have to spend 8,000 pounds of their own money so that Matthew, who is 2, could hear in both ears. The trust had argued that one cochlear implant would meet Matthew's clinical needs, but that two was a matter of parental choice, for which it was not prepared to pay.

"The benefits of having both implants done together are immense," Mrs Harvey said. "They do this in other countries in Europe, but not universally in the UK. "Matthew's whole development depends on him being able to hear and we think the money should have been available in the first place." Yesterday she said that she was delighted by the latest decision, and said that it should be an example to other trusts around the country, many of which are unwilling to pay for both implants.

Julie Brinton, head of the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre at Southampton University, where Matthew will have his operation, said: "Cochlear implants are a wonderful, amazing technology. They transform people's lives. They're unbelievably important. And having two, rather than one, is an advantage. "They can hear where sound is coming from better, which can be important in things like crossing the road. And they can distinguish voices better against background noise. "Adults who have had two implants say that it's like being back in a three-dimensional world. If a child were simply hard of hearing, you wouldn't dream of just fitting one hearing aid. You would fit two. "We would very much like to give Matthew two implants - it's the right way to go. But we understand the PCT's position. They have difficult decisions to make and they argue that if the money is spent giving one child two implants, another may not get an implant at all."

The procedure is expensive - 36,750 pounds for one implant, of which 15,500 goes on the hardware, and the rest on the operation and diagnostic and follow-up care. If a second implant is fitted at the same time, the extra cost is about 8,000. But if it is fitted later, during a second operation, the cost is much higher.

Ms Brinton said that research in Britain had shown that adults with two implants were better able to locate the source of sounds, and had improved sound perception. The data on children came mainly from research conducted in the United States. This indicated that children given two implants before the age of 3 achieved normal language levels, whereas in the past they would have had to use sign language to communicate.


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