The dedication of a local charity group and a team of paediatric nurses has paved the way for a new paediatric epilepsy specialist nurse to be appointed at Harrogate District Hospital. Gemma Jeffery will take up the post in September and is the first nurse of this kind to work in the district.
The new specialist nurse role has been created as part of the hospital’s Paediatric Outpatients Department business case. It was also part-funded by Epilepsy Action’s Harrogate branch, a local support group run by Paul Sinclair and David Barber.
Paul was compelled to co-run the group when his daughter Nel, now ten, was diagnosed with epilepsy as a toddler. “Back then we didn’t know much about epilepsy at all,” he recalls. “There was a distinct lack of epilepsy specialist nurses in the area, so we went to York. Generally, it’s difficult to see a paediatric consultant; they are always so pushed for time. A nurse at Harrogate District Hospital would have bridged that gap and provided much-needed, hands-on care.”
Specialist nurses are also a vital source of support to teachers when school-age children are living with uncontrolled seizures. “Nel barely remembers her time in Year 2, as she missed so much school,” Paul explains. “Epilepsy nurses are a rare and vital support to teachers, helping to implement care plans and training staff in first aid. They also give practical advice on things like PE, residential trips and everyday learning. This support can help more children like Nel stay in school once they recover from a seizure and keep up with everyone else.”
Paul, along with branch treasurer David Barber, always knew that his mission was to secure an epilepsy specialist nurse for Harrogate District Hospital. “We were determined to fundraise for this,” says Paul, whose gruelling challenges include the Alpe d’Huez triathlon and the Marathon du Sables – running 250km across the Sahara Desert last year. “My wife Lou did the Leeds half marathon too,” Paul adds. “We’ve also had great support from the Harrogate Round Table, who helped us to raise another £2000.”
David, who reformed the branch and has been treasurer for 15 years, campaigned with Paul to raise the money. “It’s utterly fantastic that we’ve achieved this,” he says. “A nurse will support many local children and their families coping with this complex condition.”
The Epilepsy Action Harrogate branch meets monthly at St Peter’s Church. David said: “There’s a range of ages, regulars and newcomers. Most people just want to talk to others who are going through the same thing. It’s a safe, supportive space and can be really rewarding for families, especially in the early days of diagnosis.”
Angie Pullen, Epilepsy Action’s epilepsy services manager, said: “This appointment will make a huge difference to children and families in North Yorkshire. The role couldn’t have been created without the hard work of the paediatric management team at Harrogate District Hospital. They put together the business case and organised the recruitment process. We are also equally grateful to Paul, David and all at Epilepsy Action’s Harrogate branch for their years of dedicated fundraising and for creating such a thriving group for people to share their experiences.”
Epilepsy affects around over 600,000 (one in every 100) people in the UK alone and 87 people are diagnosed with the condition every day. Over 51,000 are affected in Yorkshire and the Humber. Each year, Epilepsy Action directly helps over two million people through a range of services, including its Epilepsy Action Helpline, freephone 0808 800 5050, branch network and website, epilepsy.org.uk.
Notes to editor:
- For more information about Epilepsy Action, please contact the press office on 0113 210 8870, or by emailing [email protected]. For media enquiries outside office hours, contact 07823 558 569.
- To find out more about the Harrogate branch of Epilepsy Action, contact David Barber on 07940 111185.
- For information about the work of Harrogate District Hospital, contact Paul Widdowfield, Communications and Marketing Manager at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, on 01423 557470 or by emailing [email protected]