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New epilepsy nurse for Northumbria Healthcare to change lives

Wednesday, 01 October, 2014

Children and young people with epilepsy in Northumberland and North Tyneside are benefitting from improved support thanks to the appointment of a new specialist nurse, the first of its kind in the area.

The new epilepsy nurse post, which is funded by national charity Epilepsy Action for the first year, is helping to improve the lives of children and young people with epilepsy across the area.

Epilepsy Action, working with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, has appointed Andrea Irlam to the new position.

Guidelines recommend that all people with epilepsy should have access to an epilepsy specialist nurse. These nurses are an expert and essential part of epilepsy health care, providing clinical support and advice on all aspects of living with epilepsy to patients and their families. For example, they offer advice on identifying and managing risks associated with epilepsy, help to develop care plans and liaise with epilepsy specialists and other agencies, such as schools, on behalf of patients.

The role is a first for Northumbria Healthcare and is one of only two new paediatric specialist nurse posts in the north east.

Andrea, who has been a nurse for 24 years, supports children and young people in a variety of settings including in their homes, in hospital, in schools and in the community. She spent the early part of her career caring for children in hospital and was previously part of the children’s community nursing team in Northumberland, becoming the lead nurse for epilepsy in 2009.

Andrea said: “I’m delighted to be appointed to this post and be the first port of call for children and young people living with epilepsy and their families. When a child or young person is first diagnosed with epilepsy it is an extremely anxious time for the whole family so it makes such a difference that I can go and see them and answer all the questions they may have and then be there for them whenever they need me.

“Children and young people can live with epilepsy with the right support in place and it is my role to help them to do what they want to do and take part in the types of activities their friends are enjoying.”

Peri O’Connor, healthcare projects co-ordinator at Epilepsy Action, said: “Epilepsy Action is delighted to be working with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to create this new post. This is a very positive step forward for epilepsy care in the area.

“We believe that appointing an epilepsy specialist nurse is the simplest and most effective step a health organisation can take to improve its epilepsy service. This new role will be vital in helping to meet the needs of children and young people with epilepsy across Northumbria.”

The new post has been funded through Epilepsy Action’s Sapphire Nurses Scheme which originates from its 45th anniversary year in 1995. The charity works with NHS trusts to appoint epilepsy specialist nurses throughout the UK and has funded over 90 nurses through the scheme.

There are over 25,000 people living with epilepsy across the north east. One in every 220 is a child or young person under 18. Epilepsy Action directly helps over one million people each year through a range of services. For more information about epilepsy and the work of Epilepsy Action, visit

Marcie benefits from Andrea’s ‘amazing’ support

One of the families which is benefitting from Andrea’s appointment is nine-year-old Marcie Beresford and her mum Kerry.

Andrea has visited the family at their home in Berwick to offer support and reassurance on living with epilepsy and is at the end of the phone whenever they need help and advice.

Marcie has lived with epilepsy for the last three-and-a-half years, having been diagnosed when she was five. Her condition is managed by medication however she does not let it disrupt her life and dances twice a week, swims and goes to cubs.

Andrea has also provided training to Marcie’s teachers at St Mary’s First School and at her new school Berwick Middle to ensure they know what to do if she feels unwell or has a seizure.

Andrea is also planning to visit Marcie’s cubs group in Spittal to provide support to the leaders and ensure that she can join in with all the activities.

Mum Kerry, from Eastcliffe, said: “We really can’t fault Andrea at all. She answers our questions – no matter how big or small, finds solutions for our queries and goes above and beyond her role as a nurse.

“I don’t want Marcie to be treated any differently because of her epilepsy, or for her to be excluded in any way, and Andrea’s support has helped us greatly because she’s a firm believer that children with the condition should live as normal a life as possible.

“Any family is lucky to have Andrea – she’s an amazing nurse and a lovely caring person. Marcie really feels comfortable with her and the whole family is thankful for the support she’s given us so far.”