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12 September 2016

Owen Smith criticises care of people with epilepsy

Labour leader candidate Owen Smith has once again criticised the way the 'system' cares for people with epilepsy and mental health issues.

The former shadow cabinet minister described how his older brother Aled has not worked for a decade or more and lives with his parents because he has severe epilepsy.

"Aled is on the Employment and Support Allowance and had to have the Work Capability Test. It is grim and degrading," he said.

"The whole thing is ostensibly about getting people back to work but he got parked in a charity shop unloading clothes when he has two degrees and was a film-maker before he became ill."

Mr Smith said that at the start of the leadership contest his brother had a serious seizure: "He had to be rushed to hospital by ambulance. But what I found awful is that for someone who has epilepsy and mental health issues the system is useless.

"That day we went back and forth between two hospitals who couldn't take him and ended up in A&E for 48 hours. It was grim. The care he finally got was great but the system can't cope."

Epilepsy Society reacts

Epilepsy Society's acting chief executive Rosemarie Finley said that Mr Smith's experience of the health and social care system for his brother with epilepsy was not uncommon.

"Although many people receive excellent care from their GPs, neurologists and specialist nurses, we regularly hear from people with epilepsy about how the system has let them down both with health care and with the benefits system.

"We are working with clinical commissioning groups to try to improve the care pathways for people within the health system. We have produced an Epilepsy Commissioning Toolkit in partnership with Epilepsy Action to provide all the information commissioners need to deliver high quality health services for people with epilepsy.

"We also know that the benefits system can be very challenging and frustrating. We provide extensive information via our website to help guide and support people through the system.

"Anyone who is experiencing difficulties with either health or social care should call our dedicated epilepsy helpline where we have a team of highly trained staff who are able to offer emotional support and information.'

NHS England

Owen Smith was talking in an interview about his motivation to stand in the Labour leadership contest and said that he felt he could bring the party back together.

"At the moment we are fighting each other like ferrets in a sack so the biggest priority has to be uniting the party," he said.

"Then, second, we have to be absolutely clear on where we are going to attack the Tories. Right now they are destroying the NHS in England before our eyes."

Epilepsy helpline 

Our confidential helpline is for anyone in the UK affected by epilepsy.

Call: 01494 601 400 (national call rate)
Daytime: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am - 4pm
Extended hours: Wednesday: 9am - 8pm

Read more about the helpline here

More information

How to find your way through the benefits system.




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