I propose to take Questions Nos. 676, 679 and 714 together.
The HSE undertook a National Review of Audiology Services. The National Audiology Review Group developed a comprehensive set of recommendations to address the inconsistencies and inadequacies in audiology services which are contained in the HSE Report of the National Review of Audiology Services published in April 2011.
This report provides the blueprint for the planning, development and delivery of HSE audiology services, from new- born screening to assessment and management of adults and children with hearing problems, including cochlear implantation. That report included a recommendation that continued ring-fenced financial support be provided for the cochlear implant programme but at levels which allow for simultaneous bilateral implantation for children.
Since then, the HSE Audiology Clinical Care Programme was formed to oversee the implementation of the recommendations detailed by this report. Progress is being made on the modernisation of audiology services in Ireland with the introduction of a universal national programme of new-born hearing screening a key priority.
Beaumont Hospital is the centre for delivering Ireland’s national cochlear implant programme, with surgical provision for patients under six (6) years carried out in the Children’s University Hospital Temple Street. While no dedicated programme for simultaneous or sequential cochlear implantation is being carried out in Ireland at this time, some bilateral implantation has already occurred for patients, mainly very young children with certain medical conditions such as a history of meningitis or blindness. It is estimated that there are approximately 200 children in Ireland today who may be suitable for a second implant. Not all suitable patients proceed with the second implant when appraised of all the issues involved.
I am aware that Beaumont Hospital, HSE Management and the HSE’s Audiology Clinical Care Programme have met recently to discuss a joint process to identify the options for developing and resourcing a programme of simultaneous and sequential cochlear implantation. An important element of this will be the development of clear clinical criteria to prioritise clients for assessment and follow on implantation. The HSE has advised that these plans will be progressed through the HSE 2014 estimates process.