Pressure is mounting to address failures in epilepsy care across the UK after the launch of a groundbreaking plan in Wales.

The Welsh Assembly government has launched a consultation on directives that set targets for health boards, which are designed to improve provision for people with the condition.

The proposals are intended to speed up assessment, diagnosis and treatment and address shortfalls in services to boost epilepsy sufferers' well-being and prevent avoidable deaths.

Each local health board must develop a local action plan and ensure a multidisciplinary team is in place.

The plan, which was developed with the All Wales Epilepsy Forum and others including health and social care professionals, is the first of its kind in the UK and has prompted calls from campaigners for other nations to follow suit.

Epilepsy Action campaigns and policy officer Michaela Miller commented: "We would definitely welcome other countries developing plans like these because they are groundbreaking just in the fact that they will require health boards to take action."

In particular she welcomed an emphasis on providing care close to people's homes.

Joint Epilepsy Council general secretary Sharon Harvey said that people with epilepsy across the UK faced a postcode lottery for care and support, especially in more rural areas.

She said "great" clinical guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network were not being implemented by GPs and trusts.

She added that there were pockets of good practice, but that all NHS managers should be aware of the guidelines and ensure that they were adhered to.

"One of the problems is that there are no targets or accountability and primary care trusts and health trusts are trying to tick boxes in other areas," she said.

Campaigners in England claim that no action has been taken since the launch of a damning report on epilepsy services last year.

Wasted Money, Wasted Lives, by the all party parliamentary group on epilepsy, highlighted widespread underfunding across the UK.

Epilepsy Action said it would use National Epilepsy Week in May to lobby for change.

"We will be using this Welsh document as an exemplar," Ms Miller said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We have no plans to introduce a plan similar to the one published by the Welsh Assembly, but we are committed to meeting the needs of people with epilepsy and take that very seriously."

She said it was up to PCTs to decide how best to implement NICE guidelines on epilepsy and adhere to the national service framework for long-term conditions such as epilepsy.

"In cases where evidence is brought to the department that the local NHS is not funding NICE guidance, then we will ask strategic health authorities to intervene," she said.

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