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28 July 2016

New initiative to support homeless people who have epilepsy

New guidance has been published to enable community nurses to support people with epilepsy who are homeless.

The guidance has been drawn up by the Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI) in response to stark evidence that shows that people who are homeless are at a much greater risk of having or developing epilepsy.

A patient  study showed that eight per cent of homeless people had active epilepsy compared with one per cent in the general population. Informal evidence from health professionals also suggests that specialist epilepsy services do not effectively and systematically reach people who are homeless.

Working with epilepsy and homeless

Working with Epilepsy and Homelessness: Guidance for Community Nurses covers the specific risks and needs of people who are homeless and includes useful advice to enable nurses to support patients with epilepsy and give practical advice for coordinating their care.

The resource was informed by the knowledge of ten epilepsy specialist nurses from around the country, and ten specialist homeless health professionals and was developed as part of the QNI’s Homeless Health Project, funded by The Monument Trust.

Sir William Gowers Unit

One of the epilepsy specialist nurses, Tony Linklater is charge nurse at the Sir William Gowers Unit at Epilepsy Society's Chalfont Centre in Buckinghamshire. He commented:

'For people who have a regular address, employment and who are registered with a GP, it can often be difficult to access the right services to support them with their epilepsy. For people who are homeless and possibly living on the street, this problem can be exacerbated many times.

‘We have a well documented shortage of epilepsy specialist nurses in the UK so it is vital that we make sure our community nurses have the right information and knowledge about epilepsy, so they can feel confident to recognise epilepsy, give basic advice and signpost to specialist services’.

Diagnosis and treatment

The 12-page guidance document also highlights information about the causes of epilepsy, different seizure types, essential first aid, treatment, and the practicalities of living with epilepsy if homeless.

David Parker-Radford, Homeless Health Project Manager at the QNI said: 'Epilepsy diagnosis and ongoing treatment can be complex and require multiple health appointments and tests. This means it is even more vital that epilepsy services find proactive ways to reach vulnerable high-risk people, including those who may not be registered with a GP. All people living with epilepsy have the right to excellent care and treatment – not only those with stable support and housing.”

The QNI created the guidance to provide community nurses with more confidence and knowledge when supporting people with epilepsy and for epilepsy professionals to have a greater understanding of the risks and realities associated with homelessness.


Get the guidance (free pdf)

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