More epilepsy nurses (ESNs) are needed in Scotland to cope with the “potentially unmanageable” workloads they currently face, a charity has warned.
This call comes from Epilepsy Consortium Scotland and is supported by its recent report, which highlighted the crucial role of ESNs in Scotland and the need to provide care in all parts of the country.
“Clinical nurse specialists have tried to put the safety of their patients first in extremely demanding circumstances”
Epilepsy nurse specialist
In the report, which looked at the experience of six epilepsy patients and six ESNs, people with epilepsy described the support offered by ESNs as a “lifeline”.
Participants with epilepsy highlighted how their ESNs had a positive impact on their mental health, reduced anxiety, and were “always there” if they needed it.
One patient said, “Even though they are in the clinic and there is an answering machine, they still answer. Usually you call your GP, but he is hard to reach and doesn’t have the specialist knowledge. And I can’t contact my neurologist, so that’s the support available.
However, the report suggests that some people with epilepsy lack this vital support.
Some patient participants said they had difficulty getting connected to an ESN initially, expressing “frustration” that there was no automatic referral service in their area.
While others said they wanted support from an ESN but there was none in their area.
The report also noted that people living in rural areas may face additional barriers to accessing certain supports, such as in-person appointments.
ESNs noted in the report that despite increased demand for services during the coronavirus pandemic, they have tried to support patients with the resources and time available.
An ESN working at NHS Scotland said: ‘It is alarming to see the effect that Covid has had on the mental health of our patients and their ability to access primary care services.
“Clinical nurse specialists have tried to put the safety of their patients first under extremely demanding circumstances.
“We have struggled to maintain contact and have adopted new ways of practicing to deal with it – perhaps at the expense of our own workload, which continues to increase, coupled with supporting staffing shortages in hospitals. .”
“Epilepsy nurses provide a vital service for people with epilepsy”
Due to the pandemic and staffing shortages, nurses noted that their current workload is “potentially unmanageable” and that they “do not feel like they are in constant control of their work.”
Nurses described heavy workloads of up to 3,500 patients for one or two nurses and pointed to a five-month waiting list for clinics.
In light of the findings, Epilepsy Consortium Scotland has called for an increase in the number of ESNs across Scotland to ensure that everyone, “regardless of postcode”, can access this assistance in a timely manner.
Lesslie Young, Chief Executive of Epilepsy Scotland and Founder of Epilepsy Consortium Scotland, said: “Epilepsy specialist nurses provide a vital service to people with epilepsy, and this report highlights the incredible contribution they bring.
“However, [patients] reported difficulties initially accessing ESN support, and while they expressed awareness of how strained current services are, they noted how crucial this is to their care.
“ESNs play a vital role, and we would like to see their numbers increase so that people with epilepsy in all parts of Scotland can access their support,” she said.