Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes has today called on the Scottish Government to double the number of epilepsy specialist nurses (ESNs) in Scotland and take steps to ensure they are not tasked with clinical ward shifts leaving them unable to provide expert care for epilepsy patients.
Ms McInnes is the deputy-convenor of Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Epilepsy which recently discussed guidelines from the Joint Epilepsy Council recommending there should be 60 ESNs in Scotland to help the 54,000 people in Scotland suffering from the condition. There are currently only 34.
But in response to parliamentary questions submitted by Ms McInnes on how the Scottish Government plans to increase the number of ESNs and stop the practice of deploying them on clinical shifts, the Minister for Health Improvement, Jamie Hepburn, has said those responsibilities lies with NHS health boards.
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.
“The Joint Epilepsy Council recommends there should be 60 epilepsy specialist nurses in Scotland. At the moment there are only 34, half of what there should be. These are national guidelines but they’re just not being put into practice.
“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.”