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Monday, 20 May, 2002, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
NHS 'failing epilepsy patients'
Brain scan
About 300,000 people in the UK have epilepsy
A report into sudden deaths from epilepsy suggests the NHS is not doing enough to prevent them.

The study, by the charity Epilepsy Bereaved, says hundreds of lives are being lost unnecessarily each year.

Doctors criticised variations in medical care.

They also called for reporting procedures to be introduced to enable the NHS to monitor deaths and plan effective interventions.


The report found failures in the provision of care all through the system

Prof David Fish, National Hospital London
Epilepsy affects more than 300,000 people living in the UK. Official figures suggest that about 1,000 people die every year as a result of the condition.

Many of these deaths are caused by prolonged seizures which become life-threatening but many deaths remain unexplained.

This is referred to as Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) and is prevalent in young adults with the condition. It often occurs while they are sleeping.

Major investment

The report was launched at the House of Lords to mark the beginning of National Epilepsy Week and is expected to lead to calls for major investment in NHS epilepsy services.

It was drawn up by a wide variety of medical experts, including representatives of the royal colleges of GPs, psychiatrists, paediatrics and nursing.

'Some deaths avoidable'

Professor David Fish, consultant neurologist at the National Hospital in London, said the report would highlight areas where the NHS could improve.

He said: "This report is exceedingly important and was undertaken to see whether there were areas where action could be taken to reduce this tragic loss of life from epilepsy.

"The report found failures in the provision of care all through the system.

"This included problems of timely access to expert specialists and a lack of structured and effective review at primary and secondary care.

"It concluded that poor epilepsy management resulted in a substantial number of potentially avoidable deaths." Jane Hanna, Director of Epilepsy Bereaved said: "This report is a call for action for the health service.

"Five prior Government reports identified inadequacies in epilepsy services, but they have all gathered dust on departmental shelves."

A spokesman for the government appraisal group the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) said: "NICE will use the findings of the audit to inform the development of the Institute's clinical guideline on the management of epilepsy in children and adults, and its appraisal of drugs used to manage epilepsy."

A national telephone helpline for people with Epilepsy Action can be contacted in the UK on 0808 800 5050.

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The BBC's Matthew Hill
"About 1000 people die each year from epilepsy"
See also:

11 Mar 02 | Health
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