A DEAF child from Knutsford has won a year-long battle against Central and Eastern Cheshire PCT for a life-changing operation to improve his hearing.

Matthew Millbanks, five, of Aylesby Close, was initially refused an operation for a second cochlear implant, even though the Central and Eastern Cheshire PCT is legally required to provide the operation according to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

After a year-long battle starting in January 2009, the PCT finally backed down this month, after the third application for funding, and agreed to fund the second cochlear implant.

It is expected that Matthew will be operated upon in the new year.

Matthew’s father, Keith Millbanks, said the family is delighted to have won the battle.

“We are very pleased that Central and East Cheshire PCT has finally agreed to fund Matthew’s second cochlear implant. It has been a very long and stressful battle to win, but it has been worth it,” he said.

“A second cochlear implant is so important as it will help to improve his hearing and speech and will open up so many more opportunities for Matthew.

“It is a relief to get it sorted after the number of emails and phone calls that we have made. But we have had a lot of help from George Osborne and the implant centre in Manchester.

“Hopefully we will find out when it is going to happen in early January and in the best case scenario he will be in surgery by the end of January.”

Matthew, who is profoundly deaf, has one cochlear implant in his right ear hut evidence shows that two implants can help deaf children localise sound and hear speech in noisy surroundings.

Evidence also shows that early implantation can help a deaf child achieve better outcomes in life.

Cochlear implants are surgically implanted electronic devices, which provide children – who receive little or no benefit from hearing aids – with the sensation of hearing. In January this year, NICE ruled that all parents of children with severe to profound deaf children should be given the option of cochlear implants in either or both ears.

The National Deaf Children’s Society has supported the Millbanks family in their fight to obtain a second implant.

NDCS is writing to the North West Specialised Commissioning Group, which arranges the funding of cochlear implants, and to all NHS Trusts in the North West to confirm that no other family will face the same battle that Matthew’s family did.

Brian Gale, NDCS Director of Policy and Campaigns, said: “Every day that this child was forced to wait for a second cochlear implant was a day in which the child was denied the benefits of a second implant.

“Families should not have to battle the system or go through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops for what their child is legally entitled to. We are pleased to see the PCT has finally realised its legal obligations to the child but questions must be asked as to why this took so long.

We will be watching closely to make sure that no other family has to go through the same thing.”