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02 October 2015

Epilepsy Society defends importance of referrals to specialist care

Epilepsy Society has underlined the importance of timely referrals to specialists in order to ensure people with epilepsy receive the best and most appropriate treatment for their condition.

An investigation by the doctors' magazine Pulse has revealed that some GPs in England have been incentivised  to cut the numbers of patients being sent to hospital for appointments, including scans and consultations with specialists.

Responding to the news that broke this morning (Friday), Matthew Sowemimo, interim director of external affairs at Epilepsy Society (right) said the story highlights the importance of people living with epilepsy having access to specialist care.

Epilepsy changes

'Epilepsy is a dynamic condition and the needs of a person can change considerably over time,' he said. 'While we totally support and encourage better care of people in the community through properly resourced GP practices and access to specialist nurses, this must be in conjunction with appropriate referrals to secondary and tertiary care.

'It is critical that we have clear and effective clinical pathways that ensure patients are on a supported journey with their epilepsy. Working with our colleagues at Epilepsy Action and with clinical commissioning groups across the country, we have developed an Epilepsy Commissioning Toolkit. This supports commissioners in identifying the needs of the epilepsy community in their area and ensures that they have the information and knowledge to build an appropriate epilepsy service for them. This in itself could reduce unplanned hospital admissions and save the NHS money.'

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA's GP committee reiterated the need for timely referrals and clinical pathways. 'We believe it is far more appropriate for CCGs to introduce clinical pathways that ensure patients are referred appropriately rather than these crude, salesman like bonuses which pay GPs simply to make reduction to referrals in numerical terms,' he said.

Political issue

Next week Epilepsy Society's chief executive Angela Geer and chair of the charity's trustees Helen Pernelet will be attending the Conservative Party conference in Manchester to engage with politicians and decision makers over the lack of appropriate services for people with epilepsy at primary, secondary and tertiary care level.

Matthew Sowemimo continued: ' We are very anxious to initiate change at government level in the standards of epilepsy health care. Too often epilepsy is not viewed as a health priority. NHS England has already removed two out of the three important indicators that incentivised GPs to prioritise epilepsy. A new incentive to cut referrals to specialist care could be another barrier to the care people need.

'There are 1,000 epilepsy-related deaths in this country each year and that is not acceptable. With appropriate referrals and properly resourced care in the community, many of these deaths could potentially be avoidable.

'This is the message we will be driving home at the Conservative Party conference. We want to ensure change becomes a reality for today, not a promise for tomorrow.'

Follow us on facebook.com/epilepsysociety and @epilepsysociety for updates from the Conservative party conference.