Action needed ‘to stop eplilepsy epidemic’

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A local MLA has challenged the Stormont Executive “to pull out all the stops to ensure that all steps necessary are taken to prevent epilepsy becoming the epidemic of decades to come.”

Mr Robbie Butler, UUP Spokesperson on Mental Health threw down his hard-hitting health gauntlet to the Executive following a debate on the issue in the Stormont Chamber.

Robbie Butler MLA

Robbie Butler MLA

He said: “I do not think that anyone could fail to be moved by the story that I listened to this morning on local radio about the young man who suffers from epilepsy and his mother’s heartfelt plea for greater help with her son’s plight as they live with the dangers of epilepsy every day.

“It was alarming to hear that their route to health will entail a transatlantic journey; sadly, it will not be met here in Northern Ireland - 20,000 local people live with epilepsy.

“Epilepsy is defined as a tendency to have recurrent seizures caused by a sudden burst of excess electrical activity in the brain, causing a temporary disruption to the normal messages passing between brain cells.

He added: “By its very description, it is a condition that greatly impacts on the people who suffer from it. A diagnosis can come as a worrying blow, and, as we all know, it can greatly impact on areas of daily life as basic and fundamental as driving.

“Epilepsy has a worrying misdiagnosis rate, however: up to 20% or 30%. As a result, it is a real possibility that people with the condition in Northern Ireland are being left in the system, where their needs are never identified.

“That, in turn, contributes to a rate of unscheduled care that is far higher than normal. We would not for one moment tolerate such a rate of misdiagnosis for cancer. However, it is the sad reality for epilepsy.

“In particular, we have the plight of children and young people with epilepsy. A wealth of research reveals that they have a lower quality of life than peers who have other long-term conditions, such as asthma and diabetes,” warned Assemblyman Butler.