Epilepsy

Part of Culture, Media and Sport Committee – in the House of Commons at 4:50 pm on 26th February 2015.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb The Minister of State, Department of Health 4:50 pm, 26th February 2015

I congratulate my hon. Friend Laura Sandys who has worked with my right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan. Together they present a powerful case, and I join everyone in thanking my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet for everything she has done in this Parliament. She will be very much missed, and her case today was all the more powerful because she has epilepsy and can speak with authenticity. What she said about stigma is right—I see it often in mental health, and it is exactly the same issue in this debate. The fact that not long ago someone with epilepsy could not marry is an extraordinary reminder of what we have been up against. This debate is timely and gives everyone the chance to focus on the condition and on how we can improve the lives of those who have epilepsy. I am pleased that the baton will be passed to Valerie Vaz, who I am sure will ably continue to articulate the case for people who suffer from epilepsy.

The debate has been marked by reference to two tragedies involving young people, and my hon. Friends the Members for Wycombe (Steve Baker) and for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) spoke incredibly movingly about the dreadful cases involving Jessica and Emily. We will all agree that we owe it to those two girls to do everything we can to improve the experience of people with epilepsy, and to avoid tragedies of that sort happening. It is important to raise awareness, not only among the public but among clinicians, of the condition and how best to respond to it.

I pay tribute to the work of organisations involved in campaigning and research into epilepsy. The Epilepsy Society is based in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham, and Epilepsy Action in Leeds is close to the constituency of my hon. Friend Greg Mulholland. Young Epilepsy has also been mentioned, as has the important work done by SUDEP Action. I remember meeting its members when they were establishing the register, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham made clear, it has the potential to provide incredibly rich data and evidence to help us understand why sudden unexpected deaths occur, and how we can prevent them from occurring in the future. All those organisations are doing incredibly important work.

The hon. Members for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) and for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) mentioned discrimination. They will understand that I cannot comment on an individual case—I am an ex-lawyer and cautious about these things—but the important point about combating disability discrimination, including for epilepsy, cannot be overstated. Where there has been discrimination, it is incredibly important that there are consequences and that lessons are learned to avoid such things happening in the future.

I cannot begin to do justice to all the important points raised in this debate, so I undertake to write to all hon. Members who have taken part and to respond on important points such as co-commissioning laser ablation treatment, which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham, as well as many other issues.