A report has been published which shows the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with neurological conditions and the key services they rely on. The Lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic report was launched by the National Neuroscience Advisory Group (NNAG), an association of healthcare professionals and patient groups working to improve care for people living with neurological conditions.
COVID-19 has caused considerable challenges to the way people with epilepsy are able to manage their condition and how health services provide support for assessment, diagnosis and treatment. Epilepsy Research UK welcomes this report, which urges NHS England and NHS Improvement to provide the necessary support to restore services for people with neurological conditions to at least pre-pandemic levels.
- An estimated backlog of more than 225,000 neurology appointments and 58,000 neurosurgery appointments at the end of 2020 – the winter surge of COVID cases is likely to have increased these figures further.
- A growing number of long-covid patients who now require neurorehabilitation, neurological care, neuro-psychiatric care, or neuro-psychological care to manage their symptoms and functioning – this will too increase demand for neuroscience services.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the challenges facing rehabilitation services. NHS Data shows there were 20,000 fewer outpatient appointments with a rehab consultant across all neurological conditions between March and June 2020 compared with the same period last year.
- New models of care, particularly remote consultations, must be rolled out carefully – evidence received from across the neurological sector suggests mixed patient experience with remote consultations.
You can view the full Lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic report here.
Impact of COVID-19 on the epilepsy community
The pandemic has had an adverse impact on the epilepsy community in many ways:
- Waiting times for epilepsy surgery and video telemetry have increased substantially. This means people with uncontrolled epilepsy are at an increased risk of SUDEP.
- Access to medicines remains a constant concern, as does timely access to specialist epilepsy nurses and neurologists
- People with epilepsy have experienced more seizures due to increased stress, loss of sleep and high fevers.
As documented in our #ALifeInterrupted report, people with epilepsy are also disadvantaged due to the stark inequalities in research funding. Just 0.3% of the £4.8 billion spent on health-related research is invested in epilepsy research, and only 7% of total funding is invested across all neurological conditions.
In response to the challenges of COVID-19, Epilepsy Research UK launched an urgent Innovations in Healthcare research call in July and awarded three research projects last December. These projects will help to drive the development of new innovations in technologies and services for people with epilepsy at this crucial time.