Bristol’s Frenchay Hospital is to become an international centre of expertise in the care and surgery of children with epilepsy, it has been announced.
The hospital will become one of only four specialist services in England for children’s epilepsy surgery from November 2012.
It means that Frenchay will be providing complex paediatric epilepsy surgery to around a quarter of the population – treating children from across the South West region as well as seeing those from other regions in the UK.
And, according to Bristol surgeons, the city will become a major national and international resource for education and training of doctors and other medical professionals.
“This is fantastic news for Frenchay and indeed for Bristol,” said Mike Carter, neurosurgeon and surgical lead for the new service.
“Epilepsy surgery is increasingly recognised as beneficial in certain children. There is evidence that the earlier children are treated, the better the likely outcomes in terms of the effect of ongoing seizures on their brain development. There are significant advantages in carrying out surgery in children under 5.
“The aim of the service is to improve uptake and access to epilepsy surgery for children whose epilepsy is drug resistant
“As well as the obvious benefits for patients, this designation offers fantastic opportunities for clinical collaboration across our networks – particularly in terms of research with our partner universities.
“It will result in Bristol becoming a major national and international resource for education and training of doctors and other medical professionals interested in the field of paediatric epilepsy surgery.”
The service will transfer to the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children – run by University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust – in 2014 when inpatient paediatric services move from North Bristol NHS Trust.
Frenchay assesses about 40 patients per year at present on its paediatric epilepsy surgical programme and performs surgical procedures on about 22 of these. These numbers are expected to rise following the new designation.
The other centres that will provide surgery are Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust with Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; and Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust with Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Campaigners for children with epilepsy have welcomed the move, saying the increasing skills could provide children with the chance to significantly improve the quality of their lives.
Mark McDaid, Local Area Manager for Epilepsy Action, said: “We’re delighted with today’s announcement and to hear that Frenchay Hospital has been chosen to provide specialist epilepsy surgery for children.
“This is a huge move forward that will help build skills and expertise in the field of epilepsy. Most importantly it will give more children with difficult to control epilepsy a chance to have surgery which could significantly impact on their quality of lives.”