South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has written to health bosses to seek reassurance that NHS Dumfries and Galloway is able to meet the needs of people with epilepsy during the coronavirus pandemic.

The SNP MSP was writing on behalf of the charity, Epilepsy Scotland who have recently carried out a survey that showed nearly half of people with epilepsy are experiencing an increase in seizures and over a third have had their specialist appointments cancelled.

The group are concerned that the current adult Epilepsy Specialist Nurse for the region has been scaled down from five days a week to just one and they want reassurances that a neurologist with a special interest in epilepsy will be replaced when she retires later this year.

They’re also frustrated that their campaign to establish a specialist children’s epilepsy nurse for the region has failed to make any progress.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said,

“It’s understandable that the health board have been focussed on tackling COVID-19 and that this will, of course, affect services. However, the pandemic does not stop conditions such as epilepsy and, unfortunately, services for these families have been restricted or taken away altogether.

“It’s now almost a year since families and professionals met with the health board to discuss the establishment of a dedicated epilepsy nurse for children in the region but progress appears to have stalled with little progress to establish this position. The families had even sourced funding from the Roald Dahl charity but they’ve now changed their criteria and, to the group’s dismay, the funding is now no longer available.

“I understand that NHS D&G have identified the epilepsy service as a priority during their COVID-19 recovery phase. If that’s the case, families would like reassurances that the epilepsy clinics and nursing facilities will not only be at the top of the list to be resumed but they’ll be delivered to the same levels as before. They’d also like confirmation that the health board remains committed to taking forward plans for a dedicated children’s epilepsy nurse for the region. These services are vital to improving outcomes in people with epilepsy so I hope the health board can reassure us that they’ll be prioritised as a matter of urgency.”