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Coming soon: will you be forced to get your hearing aids from the RNID?

The problem with having deaf organisations communicate with the government "on our behalf" is that they are communicating THEIR interests which is NOT necessarily the same as OUR interests (Deaf people). Government departments and other bodies need to realise that the voluntary sector and individuals are not the same, and there is a massive conflict of interest happening.

Furthermore, we aren't actually consulted or information reaches us before changes happen.

Proposals for hearing aids:

The Department of Health has published proposals around contracting out services to the voluntary sector. Hearing aids are a central part of this. In other words we would go and get our ears tested, then be issued with a prescription. A bit like a prescription for glasses or medication.

It is then proposed you would take this prescription along to the RNID, and they would issue us with hearing aids. The RNID would be provided with money by the Department of Health, to issue NHS hearing aids or you could have the option of paying for private hearing aids. The RNID here would effectively become a retailer.

My initial thoughts:

- your personal details would be held in yet another one of their databases, and they have access to our medical information (used to develop other services, and become a monopoly charity?);
- they already hold a monopoly over subsidised relay serivces, and due to their hugeness perhaps other services too / no choice to go elsewhere;
- it would give more power to this organisation that has little regard over accountability to its user base;
- these proposals were available earlier this year, and I only found this by chance. Who is bothering to consult with us, and are we happy about? In my case no way;
- why hasn't this information been made available to us before now, so we could express our thoughts?

Ask the Readers:

Would you be happy if the NHS gave you a prescription for hearing aids (new, replacement, serviced, etc.), and you were then told to take this prescription along to the RNID to get your hearing aids? Do you want this proposal to go ahead?

Does anyone know where this proposal is on the DOH Procurement and Proposals site? Is there a consultation, or if there was one has it passed? This is perhaps something that we need to respond to, if possible.

Source: Third Sector (full article below).

Update: An excellent post from The Coterie of Zombies on this, go read.

Charities disappointed by equipment proposals By Nathalie Thomas, Third Sector, 6 June 2007

The Department of Health is urging charities to open shops selling community equipment such as wheelchairs and hearing aids.

But the department's plan to overhaul the way such equipment is provided falls short of sector expectations.

Charities had hoped the Government would hand over large-scale NHS contracts to organisations such as the RNID, the charity for deaf people, and the British Red Cross.

But under proposals published by the department last week, people would be issued with free 'prescriptions' for equipment. They would take these to independent retailers from the voluntary or private sectors, which would exchange them for equipment and claim the cost back from the NHS.

Lucia Fireash, national programme officer for the DoH's Transforming Community Equipment Services project, said retailers could not necessarily count on the Government funding them to perform this role.

Instead, she said, retailers could earn money through prescriptions or through individuals choosing to buy items themselves. "I don't think either of those things compromises any of the sector's principles," she said.

Several charities, such as the RNID and Assist UK, the umbrella organisation for disabled living centres, said the new model offered greater choice to users but could result in charities subsidising services previously paid for by the state.

Brian Lamb, director of communications at the RNID, said: "There's absolutely no way we're going to use charitable funds to run what should be state-provided services."

Alan Norton, director of Assist UK, said: "Any moves towards this model will have to be self-financing."


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Coming soon: will you be forced to get your hearing aids from the RNID?:

» The RNId's new digital hearing aid... from Grumpy Old Deafies
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Comments (25)

I can foresee a lot of problems here.
RNID does not cover Yorkshire as someone have told me in past.
So accross my road is the Doctors surgery where i prob pick up subscribtion and then go where to my nearest RNID?
Secondly RNID would be effectively become a retailer.. Why not Boots the chemist? they supply hearing aids batteries and haring aids too.

Its going from bad to worst!!

There's no fucking way I would approve of this. Apart from the medical information aspect, it is a regressive tactic for the Deaf community. It smacks of the benevolent big brother [benefactor] stalwart that we want to move away from. RNID in spite of its rhetoric, needs to decide what kind of organisation it is gonna be..but that's pretty obvious. A benevolent benefactor, suffering delusions of grandeur!

Yeah and convoluting the whole process of getting hearing aids... shit horrible images of benevolent benefactor keep springing to mind!

Its pisses me off to the hilt, and right now I feel like expressing some stronger words.

If they are going to take a health stance on this, its not in the interests of my health for this to happen, it would stress me out no end. Furthermore, I would not want such an organisation to have access to or retain my medical records.

What annoys me even further, is that this information has been kept from us, and where is our chance to say what we think?

@ Fintan, they would probably expand, even offer mobile outlets. This would be a huge contract.

Well if the NHS want to save money that's a good way of making us go private!
No friggin way I will have the RNID touch my ears!

An after thought: the Department of Health is a public body, thus legally obliged to consult with disabled people under the Disability Equality Duty. Deaf people represented? And who?

Apart from total lack of confidence in the RNID - I consider them to be socially biased if that explains my feelings - by and large they are snobs. But my real worry is that Deaf aids, in my experience always require technologists to "set them up" to the individuals specific requirements - I don't see the RNID providing a service to the standard of the NHS in this respect and I haven't always been happs with the NHS standards come to that which puts the very idea of this a long long way from ideal.

Let's not twist this story into something it is not. It is true (from what I can tell above) that the RNID is trying to grab a monopoly and get the government to give it tons of cash up front to dispense hearing aids, BUT it seems the government is falling much more on our side in this -- they are pushing a system where the RNID will be reimbursed afterwards for hearing aids it dispenses to people who CHOOSE to go to the RNID for their aids. But we will have a choice (go to Boots if you want to); and we can use that choice to make a statement: that we'd rather go elsewhere than the RNID, thank you very much.

What I think is most important for us is that we make sure the government sticks to its guns, and not let it be hob-nobbed by the RNID. So long as there is choice in the marketplace, I am happy.

I agree with Dale on some of it here... but what I can see that we will have crap quality type of hearing aids for free or pay for the expensive ones.

Ebay here i come!

I don't wear hearing aids but if I did, there is no wayyyyy I would go to RNId for them.

R.E. "choosing" to get hearing aide from RNId... how many people would actually KNOW they have a choice? It's not as if RNId would say "Oh, you can go to Boots if you like." They are more likely to say "Hello, lovely deaf person, we can look after you so well. And if you get your hearing aids from us, so many thousands of poor deafies like you will benefit from the profits. It will make a REAL DIFFERENCE to their lives. Money, money, money!"

My arse!

To be honest, I don't think there will be much of a a choice. This is about CONTRACTS, and I can forsee a huge contract being awarded here.

The govt and rnid seem to be in bed together, and stinks of cronyism.

Do you actually see Boots or other private dispensers stocking hearing aids that would be suitable for people who have very little residual hearing? I don't mean the hide in your ear thing, that would be totally useless.

What this is or is not proves a distinct lack of consultation here: organisations and Deafies are NOT the same thing. Organisations just look after their own interests here.

Okay, potentially the rnid has:
- access to telephone calls you make, and perhaps under the old Typetalk system has access to your home address, where you work, phone numbers, and possibly still retains these for mailouts;
- Employment Services, your CV, qualifications, where you want to work;
- AtW assessments - it carries them out, thus knows where you work, medical information if required for assessment, and basically will recommend what you will get / what you won't;
- Social services or AtW could purchase products from their shop, e.g. loops, vibrating alarm clock etc, thus it can build up a profile of you in this manner;
- buy their magazine by direct debit? Perhaps they have your bank account details too;
- need an interpreter, lipspeaker, speech to text? The service provider or your employer possibly booked through this agency and you don't have a lot of say that this happened. The agency of course demands to know who the Deaf person is, thus it could collect information about your whereabouts.

Now there's a proposal that it supplies hearing aids too. Digital ones, it will know your audiogram. And there's probably more that could be added to the list above.

No other hearing organisation or body can hold so much information on one person from medical to employment, to phone calls, etc. This organisation has so much power or potentially access to information. We do have the Data Protection Act, but it doesn't exactly deflect the enormity of the above.

So much for us being free of charities, and doing things ourselves. This organisation is getting more powerful by the day, with 100% hearing SMT, and a hearing Chair.

That's the word - cronyism. It was on the tip of my fingers/tongue the other day.

Look like RNId is becoming the Google/Facebook behemoth of the UK D/deaf scene and we don't have any choice. I am totally against the idea. It is an invasion of our fucking privacy. They even take your National Insurance Number through Employment Service and I don't know why because it is not benefits service. I want my medical information stored on NHS database where it will be better protected from hackers and dubious ppl(billions of pounds poured into IT gotta count for something one day soon) rather than RNID IT department. I am totally against the idea of one charity having all of my personal / private / medical information.

On another principle, I want hearing aids to be kept with NHS because NHS are usually well linked by public transport whereas RNID offices are out of the way as cannot afford prime locations due to charity status. This is gonna make life more difficult for the senior people to get their hearing aids.

Does anyone want to set up a petition on the Number 10 website? If so, what would the wording be?

Surely one of the basic problems with the government putting all their eggs in one basket like this is that there's no way of checking that it's offering best value, is it? It smacks of privatisation - are there any other instances of similar things happening in other charitable sectors? Are they passing immigration over to the refugee council, for instance? I very much doubt it.

As for the cronyism element, I agree wholeheartedly - there's a real smell of Jobs or the Boys in all of this, as with a few RNID things. I don't doubt their intentions, but when you put it like that about how little autonomy deaf people in the UK are really allowed, that's galling.

Is there any merit in deaf people asking the RNID for all data held on their systems about them? You know, through freedom of information or data protection, just to see how much they keep?

Howard - why don't you use trackback as you have written a good opinion piece on your blog. (everybody - click on the name 'Howard')

Thanks for the heads up Tony. Have included Howard's link in the main body of this post.

Trackbacks are a bit crap on here, mainly because there's so much spam trackbacks. Hoping the new version of MT will resolve this.

@ Howard - good idea. Perhaps we should all start demanding data access, esp high users of their services (even if its indirect).


That's hideous! I wouldn't want any of the 'deaf' charities dealing with dispensing hearing aids. I have enough trouble with audiology departments and the NHS. I think the RNId dispensing hearing aids would dilute their correct purpose and there would be ulterior motives on their side as well.

I already loathe typetalk as they do not listen to change or care what deaf people need and want (need to kick off more about that); I haven't bought from the RNID shop in years cos there are better and more upfront honest retailers of 'deaf stuff' out there. I did seek employment advice once, but it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know.

The RNID has spouted incorrect information about my type of hearing aid (BAHA) and when asked to correct it by a small trustworthy BAHA charity, several BAHA users and a number of BAHA specialists the RNID promised to provide an errata which never appeared. I don't need yet more ignorant stupid people who do not understand physics having anything more to do with my hearing aid dispensing.

I am all for charities, but they should stay in their place, they should not become The One True voice for any group of people, nor should they be involved in dispensing or handling products and services where no other viable alternatives exist. The more I get to know these mega-charities the more freaked I get.

"It is then proposed you would take this prescription along to the RNID, and they would issue us with hearing aids."

Who said the RNID was about to become the NHS's sole UK-wide contract provider for hearing aids virtually overnight? The proposal is for the private sector to get involved, too - the "Third Sector" article says as much. There's an independent hearing aid retailer in practically every high street nowadays - even Mary Hare School's got in to the act (it opened its first Hearing Aid Centre in Newbury not long ago).

Sorry, that last post was mine - forgot to add my "name"!

Re private sector see Jen's comments re Boots, also mine re contracts. These are sometimes confined to geographical areas, and monopolies.

E.g. when it comes to e.g. delivery of say AtW, do we actually have a choice over the assessor. Whilst many organisations (including private sector) nationwide might be eligible to do AtW assessments, this doesn't necessarily mean that you have a choice. Sometimes you have to go with what is given. Same goes for Employment Services, you have to go with what is given.

Whilst the DOH is a different department, it still operates on the basis of contracting.

The core weakness of this whole thing, and what I am trying to highlight here is lack of information. I want to see the proposals in detail, and nearly missed this. In fact the article was published a nearly 2 months ago, and noone picked it up. That says a lot.

Pls can someone post a URL to the RNID proposals .. I can't find the original doc anywhere - thanks.

Don't think there is a url, only got the Third Sector one .... where it reads as providing the price is right, they will do.

Problem is lack of transparency, and telling us BEFORE something happens and this consultation process. There needs to be an understanding that deaf orgs interests don't necessarily = interests of individuals.

I tried to look on the DoH procurement website, and consultations around this - could not find. Half the problem is, I accidentally stumbled on this article about a month after it was originally posted so it could be that the consultation time frame has now ended.

Methinks half of this discussion is happening behind closed doors, and one way of tackling it is to ask the DoH for info about this, especially under the Freedom of Information Act. Anyone want to volunteer?

I was poking around for a link earlier today and could only find this link, which indicate the birth of this concept. I am surprised how long ago it was formulated - hence the lack of transparency?

Thanks for that link Tony, useful to know. What's happened since though and what's the detail of this structure?

Hearing Concern going to have something to say about this? Damian?

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