'Transforming a Cinderella service'

In 1999 RNID research revealed that NHS audiology services were neglected and underfunded. While five million people in the UK would benefit from having a hearing aid, only two million people had them. And one third of the people who did have a hearing aid didn't use them because they struggled with outdated analogue technology which gave whistling feedback and poor quality sound.

The RNID mounted a large scale lobbying campaign to persuade the government to offer more funding to audiology and the government has committed 125 million to modernising audiology services over several years. Philippa Palmer, director of health programmes, says: It was effective because we didn't whinge and come up with problems, but offered solutions.

Ministers also asked the RNID to manage the modernisation programme in partnership with the Department of Health. This was the first time a voluntary organisation had been asked to form a management partnership to deliver change within the NHS.

The RNID believed that a radical reduction in the price of digital hearing aids could be achieved. As the world's biggest hearing aid buyer, the NHS had a lot of bargaining power. The RNID's negotiations with manufacturers led to the price of hearing aids being dropped from 2000 each to 55, a potential cost reduction up to 50 million a year.

Dr John Low 
Chief executive 
19-23 Featherstone Street 
020 7296 8113 
Reg no. 207720


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