The Department of Health is refusing to bow to calls to limit private sector provision of audiology services.

It has outlined its position in response to a health select committee report into audiology services published in May, which questioned the extent to which private sector involvement was needed.

Decisions on provision depend on local needs and are made by strategic health authorities. Around 50,000 additional pathways are being procured from the independent sector, the response states.

'Providers are subject to ongoing audit and must meet stringent key performance indicators through the delivery of the contract,' it says.

Answering to criticism that waiting times were too long and data collection was inadequate, the DoH said information-gathering had been stepped up.

There are no plans to make audiology services subject to the 18-week target. But the response says: 'We have been clear that no local health system will be credible in claiming success on 18 weeks if it does not make excellent progress in tackling long waiting times affecting large numbers of its local population, including those waits that are technically outside the target.'