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CI funding in Wales again, a political football

A couple of days ago, Glyn Davies AM reported on the fact that someone could not get a CI in Wales, because of a lack of funding. He went onto state that this happened on the same day as Wales made prescriptions free for all.

Today Glyn Davies goes onto expand this case, by citing the consultant's letter and slamming the BBC for non reporting.

I fully expected the BBC to start the ball rolling - but No. For some reason, which completely escapes me the BBC doesn't think this is worth reporting. So I will have to do it myself.

Don't underestimate the power of blogging! Blogging is reshaping how information is spread, and the media is already having to respond to this, and re-examine how it distributes or reports stories. I already know blogging may already influence me, I want an open conversation.

Deaf coverage in the media, or rather lack of, I'm too familiar with. However, its a lot easier when trying to promote something the public can generally identify with, i.e. lack of hearing, than it is for something like BSL. However, I'm surprised BBCi Mid Wales' pages / their Aberystwyth office has not picked up on this, as their news items move way too slowly for my liking.

Glyn, have you tried the regional press (for other readers the County Times, Cambrian News and the Shropshire Star)? Sometimes the national press picks up on later. Have you approached BBC See Hear?

This is the consultant's letter:

Dear Miss Price,

I am writing to update you on the current situation regarding the funding of your cochlear implant.

As you know, Health Commission Wales recently produced a document which denies cochlear implants to all adults in Wales apart from those patients who had previous meningitis (a minuscule proportion of the total). I went to see the Minister of Health (Brian Gibbons) on 5th March 07, to protest about the situation, and was left informally under the impression that he might be able to help. Sadly, in response to a question in the Assembly today, he has confirmed that Wales will not be providing cochlear implants to nearly all adult patients.

Wales is therefore the only home nation to deny this treatment to deaf people. Cochlear implantation is a well established treatment that is more cost effective than renal transplantation or coronary artery bypass grafting, there is no effective alternative treatment and in my view this policy is cruel to people like yourself having to cope with the handicap of profound deafness.

Having failed to help you through the appropriate channels I see no alternative to publicising this outrageous situation prior to the Assembly elections in May. We will be mounting a campaign via the good offices of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf. Please let me know if you are happy to be contacted by the media. In the Meantime please feel free to act independently and contact your local Assembly Member/Member of Parliament.

I know that this news comes as a devastating blow to you, but please don't give up hope. In the long term having Wales behave like a third world country is not a sustainable situation and I believe it is just a matter of time before we get this decision reversed. Kind regards

Yours sincerely, Jonathon Osborne, F.R.C.S, Consultant Otolaryngologist.

Incidentally this person lives just 5 miles from me. When I bang on about issues, I won't criticise individuals, and try and confine my irks to structures. All I can say is good luck to Andrea.

I should also add here, I had exactly the same issue re CIs in 1993, and lack of funding from Wales. And the same hospital too, and probably the same GP practice! I was later shoved in the ENT system in Birmingham (I was at university there). Got caught up a fight between two health authorities. I never got a CI, and I wouldn't get one now. However its interesting from a funding perspective and how politics doesn't move in 14 years even if we now have a Welsh Assembly.

However, what deeply disturbs me about this consultant's letter, and whilst he's trying to get what he wants, its irresponsible. My other question, knowing full well how things operate within Powys: immediately I have to ask what other support is this person getting? The fact that the consultant goes onto state, "there is no effective alternative treatment" scares me. From a hearing viewpoint, perhaps he is correct. However, cochlear implants do not make a person hearing, and secondly is communication being addressed. Especially as a wider communication issue in Llanidloes and Montgomeryshire. The fact that social services for deaf people in Powys has not been reviewed in decades, it is in the process of this (reviewed by a person with no prior knowledge of deaf / hard of hearing people!) and has little / no user consultation. They are starting to change, I hope.

The "good offices of the RNID" are the same offices who are not rolling out funding for interpreters in Powys and a blanket solution applied to the whole of Wales when it comes to funding for BSL. Powys has been the only county to miss out on the £2.7 million, because it is deemed as rural, and noone actually recognised or had the foresight that you cannot apply Cardiff solutions to rural areas. Also, I'm concerned about their very lack of deaf involvement in mid Wales, and their project at Rhayader. The project name, "Hear to Help" is rather patronising in tone, and does not afford an image of empowerment. Such images in mid Wales does have an effect on people like me.

Going back to the issue of CIs, again my question comes back to, should public services be funding outrageous profits of the private sector? Is information balanced? What are the alternatives in mid Wales as far as communication and a holistic approach to deaf people goes? Does the Welsh Assembly really understand d/Deaf and hard of hearing people, and are they listening to THEM (not unrepresentative organisations) across Wales? I fear not.

Update: Glyn Davies reports:

UPDATE - I am told that the Minister Brian Gibbons has now allocated £750,000 for the provision of cochlear implants for adults. The consultant, Mr Osborne has contacted me to inform that the Minister's decision will now allow Andrea's treatment to go ahead, which is great news for her and others in the same position.

And in his comments he says:

Minister has decided that £750,000 will be made available for Cochlear Implants in the next year. Andrea's consultant now thinks that she will have implant in next few months. My office has just had an email from Andrea which reads as follows.

"Oh, my God. I am soooooo pleased. ......I can't think at the moment I am so happy. Thank you and thank Mr Davies for me, and wow....!

I don't know whether my questioning had anything to do with the Minister's decision, or whether it was something else that persuaded him to act on this. And it is too soon to know whether this sorts out the issue. But its this sort of thing which makes an AM's job worthwhile. Cheers Brian.

Previous relevant posts:
CIs not value for money?
Cochlear set to grow 20% in 5 years

Comments (2)

There IS no political football, stop the misinformation.

How can it not be a political football. My AM doesn't agree with the Minister for Health. The consultant is writing political letters (not medical based ones). If that's not politics, what is? Yes, an individual is getting caught up in this.

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