It is estimated that there are 533,000 people affected by epilepsy across England and Wales (including around 112,000 children and young people), and it is vital that our NHS supports them to live healthy, independent lives.
Early diagnosis, treatment and seizure control are key to achieving high quality outcomes for patients with epilepsy, and it is important that local health systems strive to achieve this.
Guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) set out best practice for treating patients with epilepsy.
NICE recommends that people having a first seizure should be screened and referred to a specialist, helping to ensure earlier diagnosis of epilepsy. I am glad that NICE has now updated this guidance to ensure that it remains consistent with new evidence about epilepsy.
I am encouraged that with proper treatment, most people with epilepsy can be helped to have fewer seizures, and in some cases no seizures at all.
Online abuse which is designed to provoke epilepsy seizures is abhorrent. I am grateful to organisations like the Epilepsy Society who have highlighted the terrible impact this has on children with epilepsy.
As a result of this campaigning, the Government has committed to introducing new offences into law through the Online Safety Bill to prevent epilepsy trolling. This includes harm-based communications which will capture epilepsy trolling where it meets the criminal threshold. I understand that the Government is also considering a standalone offence for epilepsy trolling.
I absolutely understand the concerns and anguish of patients who suffer with epilepsy and are seeking treatments to ease their symptoms, and their families. The decision whether to prescribe an individual with medicinal cannabis is not a political or financial decision, but a decision by a medical expert, who will have considered whether it is the most effective treatment based on an individual’s particular condition.
To inform clinical decision making, more robust research will be required on higher numbers of patients to develop evidence on the impact of medical cannabis on outcomes.
Recent work by NICE found that current research in this space is limited and much is of low quality.
That is why it is positive that the Department (through the National Institute for Health Research) will be supporting two randomised control trials into epilepsy in adults and children. I understand that the trials will commence soon and results will be published following the completion of the trial and findings have been peer reviewed.