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Surgery boost for children with drug-resistant epilepsy

Children with drug-resistant epilepsy across England will benefit from a major expansion of specialist brain surgery and assessment, the NHS has announced today. 

Epilepsy is a tendency to have recurrent seizures and affects around 600,000 people in the UK.  However, approximately one third of patients do not respond to medication, continuing to experience seizures. For a proportion of this group brain surgery can be highly effective, leading to seizure freedom in up to 80 per cent of cases. 

The announcement to expand specialist brain surgery and assessment for children with epilepsy follows the Safe and Sustainable review of children's neurological services. During the review, clinical evidence emerged which suggested that there are significant advantages for performing early epilepsy surgery during the first five years of life

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust is currently the largest centre carrying out this type of highly specialised surgery.  Alder Hey Children's Hospital and the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital will jointly become one of four specialist centres in the country.  From November 2012 existing services Manchester and Liverpool will be expanded to enable doctors to treat three times as many patients as they currently treat now. The intention in the first year is for all children aged under 5 years to be operated on at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital (RMCH).

Mr Vivek Josan, Consultant Neurosurgeon at RMCH, said: "We are absolutely delighted to have been nominated as one of the four nationally commissioned Paediatric Neurosurgical units to provide this much needed service. We will be working with Alder Hey Children's Hospital in providing this highly specialised surgery to the children in the North of England. We are extremely proud of our neuroscience service here at RMCH and today's announcement is a validation of our superb track record in providing state of the art neurological and neurosurgical services'.

Dr Tim Martland, Consultant Paediatric Neurologist at RMCH said: "This development of our service will allow us to offer this potentially life changing surgery earlier and to many more children from across the North of England. Many parents are worried when epilepsy surgery is discussed and it can be viewed as a last resort. Many children, though, are seizure free after the surgery and go on to have more independent lives."

A recent report by 'Young Epilepsy' (formerly The National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy)  estimated up to 300 more children a year could benefit from this treatment in England and Wales  Today's announcement will see a trebling in the number of children treated each year from 125 to approximately 350 by 2015-16.

Epilepsy Action's Deputy Chief Executive, Simon Wigglesworth said: "We're delighted with today's announcement which will be of great benefit to children with epilepsy and their families. This is a huge move forward that will help build skills and expertise in the field of epilepsy. Most importantly it will give more children with difficult to control epilepsy a chance to have surgery which could significantly impact on their quality of lives. We would strongly encourage those responsible for the care of children with difficult to control epilepsy to evaluate their patients and consider whether they may be suitable for surgery and refer them to the new centres for assessment."

"There is strong evidence that the sooner the surgery is performed the better the long term outcome for the child's development. This announcement makes that life changing treatment available to more children."

Children when referred to these services will undergo a series of specialist investigations and assessments to determine whether a child is suitable for surgery. One challenge will be ensuring suitable children are referred in a timely fashion.

Anne Moore, President of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons, said: "We welcome today's announcement of new investment in vital services for children with severe epilepsy to make them safe and sustainable in future.  This will enable more children to benefit from this specialised treatment which can have huge quality of life benefits."



The full list of centres that will provide surgery is as follows:

Birmingham Children's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

North Bristol NHS Trust with University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH) with Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust with Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The expansion of specialist brain surgery and assessment for children with epilepsy is a result of the Safe and Sustainable review of children's neurosurgical services.

Next week (20-26 May) is National Epilepsy Week.


For more national information:

NHS Specialised Services communications team on 020 7025 7520 or nhsspecialisedservices@grayling.com

For Royal Manchester Children's Hospital contact: Communications Department, Tel: 0161 276 8763