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Unicom, Toys for Girls, Autographs

Consumer news with Peter White. MP calls for changes to the ombudsman system investigating complaints about telecoms company Unicom, and three sisters discuss gender-defined toys.

The telecoms company Unicom has been criticised before - but never in Parliament. We'll hear why he claimed in Parliament that the ombudsman charged with dealing with complaints is "toothless".

Also - the days of waiting outside a stage door with a soggy piece of paper to grab an autograph are long gone. It's all about the selfie now. But what has leaning in to a celeb with an outstretched smartphone done to the market for autographs? We talk to a man who sells them all - from Elizabeth I to Barack Obama.

We'll also bring you an update on the commissioning Group which is considering not offering free hearing aids to people whose hearing loss is moderate.

There's a report from a house which stores its solar energy underground to be retrieved in the dark days of winter, and a report from the front line of the retail bonanza that is... Black Friday.

And do you get annoyed by toys which are branded "for girls"? We'll speak to three sisters to get their take on whether they want gender-defined toys.

Available now

45 minutes


  • Unicom

    John Healey MP raises mis-selling by the telecoms company in Parliament

    Duration: 09:28

  • Autographs

    Expert Huw Rees on how the smartphone has affected autograph collecting

    Duration: 04:11

  • Black Friday

    Melanie Abbott looks at the John Lewis distribution centre ahead of Black Friday

    Duration: 07:16

  • Solar Houses

    Bob Walker visits what's been described as the UK's first fully solar powered home

    Duration: 05:12

  • Hearing Aids and North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group

    An update on the attempt to stop providing hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss

    Duration: 05:06

  • Girls' Toys

    Do retailers promote toys to a specific gender? We hear the views of some young consumers

    Duration: 03:18

  • Food Allergies

    The restaurant owner taken to court for serving the wrong ice cream

    Duration: 03:07

Transcript of item about digital hearing aids

Peter White: Now an update on a story that we've been following on You & Yours. One of the big organisations responsible for buying services for NHS patients is considering stopping providing hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.  

North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has been gathering opinions on the proposal. Earlier this month directors of the group delayed a final decision. Kathleen Hill was there at the meeting, but guess what? She and many others couldn't hear properly because the loop system to help people with hearing problems wasn't working. First she told us the effect her hearing loss has on her.

Kathleen Hill: When I wake up in the morning, if my husband puts the television on, I cannot make out what people are saying. The reason for this is that I've lost the ability to hear certain frequencies at different decibel levels and this is addressed and can only be addressed by digital hearing aids, each of which is programmed specifically for the specific loss in each of my ears.  

Peter White: And are there other situations, you mentioned the television, are there other situations where it's particularly difficult for you to hear?

Kathleen Hill: Yes any situation at all where it isn't purely one to one with someone facing me.

Peter White: Now there was a board meeting about this whole decision about who should have hearing aids on November 5th. Just explain to me, what happened, particularly the issue about how people could follow the meeting?

Kathleen Hill: Right, a week before the meeting I phoned to ask if there would be a loop system in the meeting rom. I was emailed and told that they were sourcing a portable loop system.

Peter:  Right, but when it came to the night in question?

Kathleen Hill: When it came to the meeting at least 10, possibly 11 or 12 people got up and walked out. As they were going out I put my hand up and interrupted the meeting, and said excuse me Chair, but we cannot hear through the loop system, it is not working.

Peter: And we should explain that in order to use a loop you switch your hearing aid to a setting don't you?

Kathleen Hill: Yes and everybody who wears hearing aids is perfectly well aware of that and they would've done that. At the comfort break, the Chair, he came over to me and said that he'd sent for a technician and the technician said that the system was working, whereupon I replied that he could send for 50 technicians and they could all say it was working but it was not working with anybody's hearing aids.

Peter White: Kathleen Hill. Well Louise Pritchard is Executive Director of Services at the Charity Action on Hearing Loss. Louise, we heard about Kathleen's experience at the board meeting earlier this month, you were there, the group offered an apology but said the situation was beyond their control. Was it? And is that good enough?

LOUISE PRITCHARD: No it's not good enough, the loop system in place clearly didn't work and as you've heard from Kathleen people couldn't hear the speakers. The loop systems should be made available by all organisations, they need to be switched on and they need to be tested regularly, it's not something you bring in for a special occasion and the technology, yes it wasn't working but if you actually have it in place all of the time it could've been avoided. I also believe that the CCG are not deaf or hearing loss aware and had they really understood or enquired as to what they could've done about it, then there are some simple measures that perhaps would've made people to be able to participate in that meeting such as looking directly at people and speaking up and clearly.

Peter: And as far as the decision about who should get hearing aids why do you feel that's so important?

LOUISE PRITCHARD: Well hearing loss, there are10 million people in the UK who have a hearing loss that this is set to grow to 14.5 by 2031. And you've heard from Kathy this can have devastating consequences, cutting them off from loved ones, disconnecting them from their social circles. We're deeply concerned about these proposals, because hearing aids do offer a lifeline. They're the only treatment currently available on the NHS and so it's appalling that the CCG would even consider denying people access. We fundamentally believe that NHS hearing aids should be funded and they should be free at the point of delivery based on clinical need.

Peter: Okay Louise Pritchard thank you very much indeed. The Commissioning Group do say the next step for them is to produce a commissioning policy to specify eligibility criteria for hearing aids which reflects the findings of the Clinical Priorities Advisory Group (CPAG), which is a little complex but I think that means they are looking at this issue. And we'll follow that story too.


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