Yesterday the Conservatives published their manifesto for the 2017 general election. Here are our thoughts on some of their key announcements and how they could impact people with epilepsy.
With the launch of the Conservative manifesto it’s clear that should they form the next government, neurology will not be a priority for them in healthcare. They are confident that the Five Year Forward View (which sets out NHS England’s current priorities), is working. Unfortunately the Five Year Forward View does not mention neurology.
The manifesto does however state that “our commitment to consistent high quality care for everyone applies to all conditions.” The Conservatives say they will set new standards in priority areas and improve their response to historically underfunded and poorly understood disease groups. We hope that this will provide neurology with the platform it desperately needs. This would then mean better quality services for people with epilepsy.
The Tories have said they will implement the recommendations in the Accelerated Access Review. We support these recommendations and believe they will have a positive impact on healthcare services for people with epilepsy.
We know that when people with epilepsy understand their condition better, their seizure control improves. This can be seen in our Epilepsy and you programme. We welcome the Conservative pledge to empower patients in this area. But for these proposals to be effective they must be developed with the people who use them.
Employment is a big concern for people with epilepsy. The Conservatives continue to say they will increase the number of disabled people in employment, changing their previous commitment to one that is clearer and measurable. This would make it easier for us to hold them to account. While in government the Conservatives produced a green paper on disability and employment. We made a number of recommendations to the government in response. If re-elected, we hope they will continue to work with, and listen to, disabled people and disability organisations.
Employers can be one of the biggest barriers to employment for people with epilepsy. The Conservative manifesto says they will work with employers by encouraging them to employ more people with a disability. The manifesto highlights the importance of working with employers to improve the workplace for people with mental health conditions. They say they will extend the Equality Act protections against mental health conditions that are episodic and fluctuating. Epilepsy is not a mental health condition, although it can often be confused with one by decision makers. It is, however, episodic and fluctuating. We hope that these proposals will open the door for epilepsy.
Welfare and benefits
We are disappointed that welfare and disability benefits are barely mentioned in the Conservative manifesto. While they state there will be no ‘radical’ reform, they refuse to rule out further cuts to disability benefits.
Disabled people have been hit significantly by cuts and changes to benefits during the last government. Many people and disability organisations have raised their concerns publicly. It is disappointing that the Conservatives have done nothing to allay the fears for disabled people of another Conservative government.
People with epilepsy are being hit particularly hard. We know that the assessment processes for Personal Independent Payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) are failing people with epilepsy. We had hoped that the Conservative manifesto would consider a review of the assessment process. It is disappointing that problems with these benefits seem to have ignored.