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New guidance released on supporting homeless people with epilepsy

The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) has launched new guidance for community nurses about how to support people who are homeless and who have epilepsy.

Working with Epilepsy and Homelessness: Guidance for Community Nurses, released today, outlines the needs of people who are homeless and includes useful advice to help nurses to support patients with epilepsy and give practical advice for coordinating their care.

The QNI compiled the resource with the help of 10 epilepsy specialist nurses from around the country, 10 specialist health professionals for homeless people, and a wider literature review.

The 12-page guidance document also highlights information about the causes of epilepsy, different seizure types, essential first aid, treatment, and the practicalities of living with epilepsy if homeless.

The guidance was created in response to evidence that people who are homeless are at much greater risk of having or developing epilepsy.

In a major patient study, researchers studying a homeless population found that 8% had active epilepsy. In this homeless population epilepsy was eight times more prevalent than in the general population.

Informal evidence from health professionals also suggests that specialist epilepsy services do not effectively and systematically reach people who are homeless.

David Parker-Radford, homeless health project manager at the QNI said: “Epilepsy diagnosis and ongoing treatment can be complex and require multiple health appointments and tests. 

“This means it is even more vital that epilepsy services find proactive ways to reach vulnerable high-risk people, including those who may not be registered with a GP.

“All people living with epilepsy have the right to excellent care and treatment – not only those with stable support and housing.”

The QNI created the guidance to provide community nurses with more confidence and knowledge when supporting people with epilepsy and for epilepsy professionals to have a greater understanding of the risks and realities associated with homelessness.

This report, which was developed as part of the QNI’s Homeless Health Project, follows other successful guides on oral health and foot care.