Hundreds more eligible for cochlear implants on NHS

Author: Adrian O'Dowd

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Several hundred more people with severe to profound deafness are likely to become eligible for cochlear implants each year, following updated National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance.

Currently around 1,260 people in England receive cochlear implants each year and NICE’s updated recommendations could lead to a 70% increase in that number to 2,150 people, once a steady state is reached in 2024-25.

The updated guidance published today, means around 890 more children and adults will become eligible for these implants on the NHS each year.

It follows a review of the definition of severe to profound deafness which is used to identify if a cochlear implant might be appropriate.

Severe to profound deafness is now recognised as only hearing sounds louder than 80dB HL at two or more frequencies without hearing aids.

The cochlear implant works by picking up sounds which are turned into electrical signals and are sent to the brain to provide a sensation of hearing.

The annual cost of implementing this guidance is predicted to be around £28.6m at year three. When the cost of a technology exceeds £20m in any of the first three years it is said to meet the budget impact test. When that happens, NHS England may work with the companies to reduce the impact that funding the technology has on the rest of the NHS.

However in this case, NHS England has decided not to engage in discussions with the companies. As such, commissioners have three months from today to implement these recommendations.

Meindert Boysen, director of NICE’s Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “The appraisal committee listened to stakeholder concerns regarding the eligibility criteria for cochlear implants being out of date. Upon review it was concluded this needed to be updated.

“The new eligibility criteria for cochlear implants will ensure that they continue to be available on the NHS to those individuals who will benefit from them the most.”

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