Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/nclexion/public_html/wp-content/themes/jnews/class/ContentTag.php on line 47
More epilepsy specialist nurses are desperately needed in Northern Ireland to address gaps in care, a charity has warned.
Epilepsy Action Northern Ireland is set to write to health minister Robin Swann to make a case for funding to be allocated for an urgent increase in these posts.
“The lack of access to epilepsy specialist nurses will mean that a lot of people are at risk of falling through the gaps”
Analysis from the charity suggests there should be at least 30 epilepsy nurses in place to provide adequate care for adults with the condition.
However, at present there are only three full-time and one part-time epilepsy nurses for adults in employment across the country.
In three out of the five health trusts, there are no adult epilepsy nurses at all.
The charity said these workforce shortages meant too many people with the condition were missing out on the “lifeline” support of a specialist nurse.
A survey recently conducted by the charity to gauge experiences of healthcare before the pandemic found one in three adults with epilepsy in Northern Ireland had no access to a specialist nurse.
Of those who did have access to an epilepsy specialist nurse, one third had not seen them since their diagnosis.
Among those struggling to access specialist nursing services were some higher risk patients including those who had daily seizures and those with coexisting conditions like a learning disability or mental health problem.
“This study highlights that people with epilepsy could benefit from an expansion of the epilepsy specialist nursing services”
Carla Smyth, manager of Epilepsy Action Northern Ireland, warned: “The lack of access to epilepsy specialist nurses will mean that a lot of people are at risk of falling through the gaps.”
A review of neurology services is currently underway in Northern Ireland and Ms Smyth said it was vital that it brought about “real and lasting change now and for the future”.
“Without this, people with epilepsy in Northern Ireland will continue to be deprived of the care they deserve,” she added.
Dr Michael Kinney, consultant neurologist and a member of Epilepsy Action Northern Ireland’s advisory council, said specialist nurses were “vital team members providing care to people with epilepsy”.
“This study highlights that people with epilepsy could benefit from an expansion of the epilepsy specialist nursing services across the entire region of Northern Ireland,” he added.
“This is something we recognise and must all work towards.”
As well as writing to Mr Swann, Epilepsy Action Northern Ireland is planning to contact health trusts to discuss their plans for their epilepsy workforce, including specialist nurses.
The Department of Health in Northern Ireland was not able to provide a comment by the publication deadline.