Epilepsy, a tendency to repeated seizures, is common, affecting 600,000 people in the UK of all ages. People with epilepsy face significant physical health, mental health and social problems. Small studies have shown that people with epilepsy may have more seizures, worse mental health and trouble getting medication due to COVID-19. Two large studies in England and the USA have shown a slightly increased risk of COVID-19 death in people with epilepsy.
To our knowledge, there are no studies that have examined whether COVID-19 has changed the lives of people with epilepsy in England.
Through a Health and Care Research Wales (HCRW) funded study, we have already started to address the knowledge gap in the Welsh population through an experienced and expert team making use of the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) databank and the Controlling COVID19 through enhanced population surveillance and intervention (Con-COV) project. We propose to build on that and extend the work to look at data from the CVD-COVID-UK initiative as it holds data from linked, nationally collated electronic health records (EHRs) in England. We will analyse data from Wales and England separately to see if there are any differences between the nations given their differences in health and social care. If possible, we will carry out analyses by combining data from the Welsh study and data obtained in this study from the English population.
If our results highlight issues or differences in the care for people with epilepsy, we will use professional and patient networks to improve epilepsy services and the lives of people with epilepsy. For example, if we find that people with epilepsy are more at risk from COVID related hospitalisations and/or death, this will provide evidence to support prioritisation of COVID vaccinations, and vaccinations in future pandemics. If we find that outcomes for people with epilepsy have worsened during the pandemic, this will provide evidence for prioritising resources to address “treatment gaps”. Given the lack of a clear definition of long-Covid, and the study is reliant on analysing already collected rather than new data, it is beyond the scope of this study to investigate long-Covid. However, within the available data, we will explore GP fitness for practice certification (ability to go back to work) as an additional proxy measure for severity other than hospitalisation and death.