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All Party Parliamentary Group on epilepsy, 19 May 2009

This page is about National Epilepsy Week 2009. Find out how you can get involved in 2016.

All Party Parliamentary Group on epilepsy, meeting with Ann Keen MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Health Services at the Department of Health, 19 May 2009

Health minister Ann Keen attended the All Party Parliamentary Group on epilepsy meeting last night to announce the government’s response to the ‘Wasted Money, Wasted Lives’ and ‘Epilepsy in England: time for change’ reports.

The minister began by saying that she has received many letters from MPs and constituents recently and feels that her response to these has not been adequate. She said that she welcomed both reports and accepted that epilepsy services in England were not good enough.

In accepting the need for her to lead improvements she announced some immediate actions that her department would take:

  • The minister will be writing to all Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) and highlighting the findings of ‘Time for Change’ and the serious shortfalls in epilepsy services in many parts of the country. She will be urging them to examine their epilepsy services and how well they meet the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) epilepsy guidelines and encouraging them to make improvements. This letter has been drafted and will be sent out in the next week or so.
  • The minister is arranging for the Joint Epilepsy Council (JEC, the umbrella body of epilepsy charities in the UK and Ireland) to meet with the Director of Commissioning for the NHS, Mark Britnell, within the next four weeks. He is responsible for the department’s World Class Commissioning programme and she is asking him to work with the JEC to identify how World Class epilepsy services should be designed and commissioned.

The charities at the meeting welcomed these initiatives, and asked the minister to consider some additions to her letter to SHAs:

  • To refer the SHAs to ‘Wasted Money, Wasted Lives’ and ensure they consider the widest range of epilepsy services when they do their review.
  • To consider strengthening the letter by stating that epilepsy is considered a priority by the department.
  • To consider advising them that the department will ask the Care Quality Commission to carry out a review in a couple of year’s time to identify if improvements have been made.

The JEC members at the meeting agreed with the minister that the key to improving epilepsy services in England would be the World Class commissioning programme commissioning epilepsy services to meet the NICE guidelines.  The charities said they would be happy to advise on the key features of an epilepsy service and help identify the core elements that should be considered.

The charities at the meeting also called on the minister to seriously consider appointing a National Clinical Director for either epilepsy, or as a minimum for long-term neurological conditions, to give further impetus to her lead on improving services.

In closing, the minister said people with epilepsy should keep up pressure for improved services.

The Department of Health, in The Guardian this week, said:

“Many people with epilepsy are receiving excellent care provided by dedicated multi-disciplinary teams and we are taking steps to spread this good practice and make sure these sorts of services are available to everyone."

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