A DEAF toddler is still waiting for a date for the operation that will give her hearing.

Despite being told by health bosses nine weeks ago that funding had been granted and a date for the cochlear implant operation would be set, the parents of Ellie McAnish are still waiting for a date.

Ellie is in a race against time to get the operation before she is four. The longer she has to wait, the chances of her hearing and learning to speak lessen.

Today, the chairman of a patient forum called for action and claimed: "The hopes and expectations of the family have been raised only to be dashed again."

Mum Sara McAnish, 37, of Belthorn Road, Blackburn, said: "It has been a roller-coaster ride of emotions.

"When we heard she had got funding we were over the moon but now we are left waiting and worrying about when she will eventually get the operation."

Ellie, who has just turned two, was born deaf. She needs a cochlear implant operation to give her hearing and the chance to learn to talk.

Medical experts say surgery must be carried out before the age of four because a brain which has never registered any sounds will then down pathways to the ears.

Angela King, senior audiology specialist for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, said: "For a child that is born deaf the first four years of life are critical in being able to hear people speaking around them so they can acquire spoken language."

Since receiving funding confirmation from Blackburn with Darwen PCT, Sara said she was in regular contact with staff at St Mary's Children's Hospital, Manchester, where the cochlear implant operation will be carried out. But they have been unable to give her any guidance as to when the date may be.

She said: "I have heard that one of the surgeons is on holiday and the other cochlear implant surgeon has left ,so they are desperately trying to find more dates."

Melrose Diack, chairman of the Patient and Public Forum for Blackburn with Darwen, said he was disappointed to hear no date had been set.

He said: "I am very concerned that the hopes and expectations of the family have been raised only to be dashed again now they find themselves no further forward than when they first brought this issue to the attention of the public.

"If the issue is not resolved in the very near future the PPI forum will discuss this and see how we can assist."

Blackburn with Darwen PCT refused to comment on an individual case.