Thank you to those constituents who have contacted me about epilepsy.
I know epilepsy can have a major impact on a person’s quality of everyday life and be a real struggle to live with. It is vital that our NHS supports people affected by epilepsy, estimated at between 362,000 and 415,000 across England, to live healthy, independent lives. Prompt diagnosis, treatment and seizure control are key to achieving high-quality outcomes for patients with epilepsy, which is why I welcome the action taken to deliver this.
Guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) set out best practice for treating patients with epilepsy. These include recommendations that people having a first seizure should be screened and referred to a specialist, helping to establish early diagnosis of epilepsy. NICE is in the process of updating these guidelines to ensure that they remain consistent with new evidence regarding epilepsy.
I am encouraged that with proper treatment, most people with epilepsy can be helped to have fewer seizures, and in some cases no seizures at all. Anti-epileptic drugs are the most commonly used treatment for epilepsy, which can help to control seizures in about 70 per cent of people. A two-stage review into the use of cannabis for medical purposes has also been announced, which could help alleviate symptoms of those living with epilepsy still further.
Some constituents have contacted me regarding medical cannabis as a means to ease symptoms of epilepsy.
There is strong scientific evidence that cannabis can harm people’s mental and physical health, and damage communities. However recent cases have shown the need to look more closely at the use of cannabis-based medicine in treating patients with very specific conditions in exceptional circumstances. This is why the Government decided it was appropriate to review the scheduling of cannabis.
The decision whether to prescribe an individual with medicinal cannabis is not a political or financial decision, but a decision by a medical expert, who will have considered whether it is the most effective treatment based on an individual’s particular condition.
NHS England has published a review which is aimed at assessing the barriers to prescribing cannabis-based medicinal products where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so.
I will continue to monitor this situation closely.