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Give Scotland more epilepsy nurses urges senior politician

The deputy-conveyor of Scotland's cross-party epilepsy group disagrees with the health minister who claims health boards are responsible for appointing specialist epilepsy nurses

Epilepsy specialist nurse (ESN) numbers should be doubled in Scotland and their work ring-fenced to ensure they aren’t made unavailable due to other duties.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes made the call to the Scottish government in her capacity as deputy-convenor of its cross-party group on epilepsy.

It recently examined a report from the Joint Epilepsy Council which recommended Scotland should have 60 ESNs instead of the 34 it currently has.

Around 54,000 people in the country have the condition, but in response to Ms McInnes call, the minister for health improvement Jamie Hepburn claimed it was the responsibilities of NHS health boards to decide numbers and duties of nurses.

He said: ‘It is for NHS boards to determine their workforce requirements based on the clinical needs and service developments in their area.

‘Specialist nurses work within multidisciplinary teams to provide valuable support and specialist advice to people and their families affected by particular conditions.

‘We expect NHS boards to ensure that people with epilepsy have appropriate access to a range of professionals including specialist nurses, to ensure optimum management of their condition.’

He claimed he could not answer an additional question from Ms McInnes on how many ESNs had been asked to perform clinical ward duties per month last year as the data was not available.

Ms McInnes said: ‘Epilepsy specialist nurses act as an expert resource for the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with epilepsy.

‘They offer patient counselling and advice on the condition. They manage specialist clinics in hospitals and GP practices. They raise awareness of the condition.

‘I’ve heard some concerning reports that instead of being able to focus on providing services specifically for people suffering from epilepsy, ESNs have had to take on clinical shifts in wards, or deal with bed management issues.

‘This only reduces the time they have available to use their expertise for epilepsy patient care.

‘But instead of allocating additional funding to increase numbers of these nurses or taking steps to ensure they are not forced to cover additional shifts, the minister is instead passing the buck onto health boards.

‘The Scottish Government is responsible for overall NHS planning and it should be ensuring the right resources are available where and when they are needed.’

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