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10 August 2015

Epilepsy Society makes the case for deep brain stimulation

Epilepsy Society has resolved to work alongside NHS England in the hopes of overturning a recent decision not to approve a promising new treatment for refractory epilepsy.

The leading epilepsy medical research charity was disappointed at NHS England's decision not to approve  funding for deep brain stimulation (DBS) for epilepsy patients in England. It had been expected that the treatment would be offered to a handful of patients each year. 

DBS therapy is intended to be used where epilepsy doesn't respond medication, and where surgery to treat the cause of seizures is not possible. It is a surgical technique that involves implanting (placing) a battery-powered device called a neurostimulator in the upper chest, under the collarbone. Leads run from the neurostimulator to a part of the brain involved in the spread of seizures. The neurostimulator sends out electrical impulses in order to decrease seizure activity. While DBS doesn't offer a cure for epilepsy, it can help to reduce seizures.

NHS England's decision has been taken with immediate effect, meaning that anybody who had already been assessed and was waiting for DBS will no longer be able to access the treatment. However, NHS England has also stated that there may be exceptions, whereby patients in clinically critical need may still be able to access the treatment.

Epilepsy Society's policy adviser Katharine McIntosh said: 'Following the decision, we attended a meeting with NHS England to find out why the treatment has been rejected. We were given reason to hope that the treatment might gain approval  in future. So we plan to work together with the decision-makers to make the case for  DBS for refractory epilepsy, to try and get it approved in 2016.'

If you would like to talk to anyone in complete confidence about issues relating to epilepsy, please call our helpline on 01494 601400. The helpline is open from 9am-4pm Mon-Fri and from 9am-8pm on Wednesdays. Calls are charged at the national call rate.