Client: Royal National Institute for Deaf People
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: Digital hearing aid
Timescale: Autumn 2001
Routinely only out-dated 1970s hearing-aid technology is available on
the NHS. Since May 2000, digital equipment had been available on the NHS
but only to patients at 20 Hospital Trusts. The Government believed the
technology needed more tests before it would finance a full
The RNID's case was both that the technology worked, and that it could
make a vast difference to the quality of deaf peoples' lives.
At up to £2,000 each, the equipment was too expensive for most
people to buy privately, so a roll-out of the NHS scheme was
To persuade the Government to make digital hearing-aids available to the
two million people who were using analogue technology.
Strategy and Plan
The campaign had public affairs and PR components. The central plank of
the campaign was to get an Early Day Motion (EDM - a parliamentary
petition) signed by as many MPs as possible.
EDMs have a principal parliamentary sponsor and the RNID secured
Blairite Labour backbencher Siobhain McDonagh in the role. McDonagh
wrote to all MPs encouraging them to sign and the RNID provided a
briefing pointing out the merits of the new technology.
Part of the inducement to get signatures was the press relations aspect
of the campaign. This involved the RNID sending a press release to media
in the constituency of each MP who signed.
At the same time, the charity sent 300,000 postcards to RNID members
asking them to send them to their MPs to encourage them to sign.
Before Christmas health secretary Alan Milburn was also sent an empty
Christmas stocking with the message that two million deaf people wanted
a digital hearing aid for Christmas.
Measurement and Evaluation
The question of digital hearing-aids was covered in an Adjournment
Debate and in Health Questions during November.
The pressure in Westminster was kept up with 50,000 of the RNID
postcards being sent to MPs.
To date, the EDM has been signed by 217 MPs - the highest for any
health-based EDM in the current parliament.
Meanwhile the press relations campaign generated local TV, radio and
press coverage for the charity throughout November and December.
The campaign resulted in an announcement on Christmas Eve that at least
an extra 30 Trusts would be authorised to provide digital hearing-aids
at a cost of £20m.
Also, an extension was announced to the initial two-year period over
which the first 20 Trusts provided the hearing-aids.
In all, one-third of the deaf people in the country will have access to
The campaign was successful in starting a national roll-out that appears
to have strong momentum.