Call for action over greater death risk for West Yorkshire epilepsy sufferers

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A NATIONAL charity is calling for urgent action over a postcode lottery which means epilepsy sufferers in West Yorkshire face a much greater risk of dying prematurely.

Latest figures show people with epilepsy in West Yorkshire are 20 per cent more likely to die early than patients in England as a whole.

Today the Epilepsy Society has called on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to put a stop to needless deaths caused by epilepsy.

People with the condition are two to three times more likely to die prematurely, but the charity says over one in three deaths is avoidable through better care, treatments and services.

The statistics, released as part of the new campaign, also reveal that the variation in death rates leads to someone with epilepsy in West Yorkshire being 49 per cent more likely to die prematurely than a patient living in Cheshire.

New scientific evidence published in the Neurology Journal demonstrates that people with epilepsy often have other serious health conditions which go undetected, some of which could bring about premature death.

Professor Ley Sander, a leading epilepsy neurologist and medical director of Epilepsy Society, said: “Premature death is an issue not only for those directly affected but to society as a whole.

“Those that are often affected are young. There is an urgent need to take action to eradicate avoidable deaths.

“My recent Neurology paper highlights the fact that when someone is diagnosed with epilepsy, doctors should be asking themselves the question ‘what else does this patient have?”

The charity says that the Department of Health’s removal of two of the epilepsy performance indicators, used to evaluate local NHS commissioners, means health bosses are in the dark about how services are performing to prevent premature death in epilepsy.

The new campaign includes an online petition which supporters can send to their MP to urge them to write to Jeremy Hunt requesting a new National Clinical Audit be commissioned.

Epilepsy Society’s interim chief executive, David Marshall, added: “By identifying where the people of greatest need are located, and which factors contributed to avoidable deaths, a new national clinical audit will provide a spur to tackle avoidable deaths more efficiently and eliminate regional disparities.

“Without this information we cannot focus effort and resources to the greatest effect.”

A Leeds-based charity has also backed the campaign, saying more patients could live without seizures if they had the right care and treatment.

Chantal Spittles, of Epilepsy Action, said: “Seizures can put a person’s health and safety at risk, as well as significantly impact their employment, education, relationships and wellbeing.

“It is important that people with epilepsy and their families understand the risks associated with epilepsy. Achieving seizure control is a vital part of minimising those risks.

“We know that many more people with epilepsy can become seizure-free with the right care and treatment. This includes access to epilepsy specialists, care plans and regular reviews.

“We urge anyone who has epilepsy to visit their doctor to discuss any concerns they may have and to ensure that their seizures are appropriately managed.”

View the petition at www.epilepsysociety.org.uk or for information on the condition, visit www.epilepsy.org.uk or call 0808 800 5050.

Vanellope Hope Wilkins. PIC: PA

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