Over on the #ERUKResearch Blog this month, we’ll be discussing the three newly funded Innovations in Research projects. We’ll be looking at the ways in which the funded researchers will ensure the innovations are delivered effectively and focus on the needs of people with epilepsy.

It is hard to overstate how COVID-19 has changed healthcare for people with epilepsy. Access to diagnostic clinics has been postponed or cancelled. Surgery has been delayed. Face-to-face consultations have become phone or video calls. Support in the community has also been affected.

Although COVID-19 has undoubtedly had a negative impact on epilepsy services overall, there have been some examples of positive improvements. In the past, advances in healthcare have sometimes taken an infuriatingly long time to reach the people who need them. But the way that health services have adapted during the pandemic shows that change can happen quickly if people focus their efforts to solve an urgent problem.

Earlier this year, Epilepsy Research UK saw an opportunity to build on this new openness to change. We wanted to make sure that any new developments in epilepsy care are both effective and designed with people with epilepsy. So in July, we created and launched a new Innovations in Healthcare grant round. As we know during the pandemic, many people will have tried something new in the management of their epilepsy, and this funding is to help the good stuff stick.

Yesterday, we announced the three researchers who have been awarded this research funding by Epilepsy Research UK. Throughout December we’ll be hearing more from each of the researchers on the Research Blog about their work, and what they hope it’ll achieve for people with epilepsy.

We’ll first hear from Professor Markus Reuber from the University of Sheffield, whose project has been jointly funded between Epilepsy Research UK and Epilepsy Action. Professor Reuber is studying consultations between people with epilepsy and their neurologists, and whether phone or video calls are as effective as in-person appointments. His work will provide recommendations to neurologists about how they can better communicate with people in their care, and make up for the limitations of phone or video consultations.

Next, we’ll hear more about a project led by Professor Sameer Zuberi from the University of Glasgow. He has helped to develop a new secure video sharing platform which enables people with epilepsy and their families to share videos of seizures via their smartphone with their doctor. Professor Zuberi will now assess how this has improved services in 15 hospitals in Scotland and England, through interviews with clinicians and people living with epilepsy.

Finally, we’ll speak with Dr Rhys Thomas from Newcastle University about his work to improve access to information about sudden unexpected death from epilepsy or SUDEP. Dr Thomas aims to increase awareness of SUDEP in two ways: first by rolling out an award-winning app to help people assess their own risk of SUDEP, and secondly, producing information videos with people with lived experience of epilepsy, to help more people have conversations about SUDEP risk.

There are two other important elements to these projects. Firstly, they are assessing services that already exist or are due to be rolled out very soon. Secondly, we asked people with direct experience of epilepsy to help us decide who to award the research funding to, ensuring that these projects are relevant to their everyday experiences.

So, as well as delivering the immediate aims of these projects, we hope that our Innovations in Healthcare Research Awards provide a blueprint for how changes in epilepsy care can be implemented from now on: quickly, effectively, and with people with epilepsy at their heart.

Want to hear more from the researchers involved in these projects? Professor Reuber, Professor Zuberi, and Dr Thomas spoke at our Innovation in Healthcare Awards Night webinar on Thursday 10th December 2020 – you can watch the whole session below. And keep an eye on the Research Blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these vital new projects.