Epilepsy March 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding sudden unexpected death in epilepsy and the related campaign by the Epilepsy Society. 

Epilepsy can fundamentally change the life of the individual concerned and I appreciate the efforts of the campaign organisations and charities that work hard to improve understanding and awareness, provide support or carry out research. I also believe that the Epilepsy Society campaign will help the issue of sudden and unexpected deaths in epilepsy (SUDEP) achieve the prominence in public debate that it deserves.

Thank you for bringing to my attention the Epilepsy Society report on premature mortality and avoidable deaths. The report highlights the evidence which shows that 39% of deaths are avoidable, and could be prevented with appropriate treatment and better access to specialty care.  This is a truly astonishing figure, we must do more to fight against these completely preventable deaths.

The Epilepsy Society report also reminds us that variation between different parts of the country are an important factor to consider. Parliament's Public Accounts Committee published a report in February that found services for people with neurological conditions in England are not consistently good enough. Indeed, the report found that barely more than one in ten patients has a written care plan and four in every ten feel local services do not work well together. 

I know that the Epilepsy Society has called on the Government to tackle avoidable premature death in people with epilepsy by identifying weaknesses in health services that may contribute to the problem, commissioning a National Clinical Audit into all epilepsy-related deaths and implementing a target for the Department of Health to eradicate avoidable deaths. The recent reports and the Epilepsy Society campaign make a very strong case to Government to look at what more can be done.  I hope to see the Government listen to experts and citizens alike to find a solution to this pressing issue.

'Purple Day', the international day for epilepsy on 26 March, will also be a timely reminder of the need to do more on epilepsy research and treatment.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views. I will continue to follow this issue closely.