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New specialist epilepsy nurse joins Harrogate District Hospital

Harrogate girl, Nel, with dad Paul, who has raised thousands to provide a specialist epilepsy nurse at Harrogate District Hospital.
Harrogate girl, Nel, with dad Paul, who has raised thousands to provide a specialist epilepsy nurse at Harrogate District Hospital.

The dedication of a Harrogate epilepsy charity and a team of paediatric nurses has paved the way for a new paediatric epilepsy specialist nurse at Harrogate District Hospital.

The first nurse of this kind to work in the district, Gemma Jeffery will take up post in September.

The new specialist nurse role has been created as part of the hospital’s Paediatric Outpatients Department business case and was also part-funded by Epilepsy Action’s Harrogate branch, a local support group run by Paul Sinclair and David Barber.

Paul was compelled to help run the group when his daughter Nel, now 10, was diagnosed with epilepsy as a toddler.

He said: “Back then we didn’t know much about epilepsy at all. There was a distinct lack of epilepsy specialist nurses in the area, so we went to York.

“Generally, it’s difficult to see a paediatric consultant; they are always so pushed for time.

“A nurse at Harrogate District Hospital would have bridged that gap and provided much-needed, hands-on care.”

In Yorkshire alone, epilepsy affects around over 51,000 people and across the UK 87 people are diagnosed with the condition every day.

Paul added: “Nel barely remembers her time in Year 2, as she missed so much school.

“Epilepsy nurses are a rare and vital support to teachers, helping to implement care plans and training staff in first aid. They also give practical advice on things like PE, residential trips and everyday learning.

“This support can help more children like Nel stay in school once they recover from a seizure and keep up with everyone else.”

Together Paul and branch treasurer David, campaigned to raise money for a specialist nurse at Harrogate District Hospital.

Their gruelling fundraising challenges saw Paul complete the Marathon du Sables, running 250km across the Sahara Desert last year and with support from the Harrogate Round Table, the branch raised another £2000.

Angie Pullen, Epilepsy Action’s epilepsy services manager, said: “This appointment will make a huge difference to children and families in North Yorkshire.

The role couldn’t have been created without the hard work of the paediatric management team.

We are also equally grateful to Paul, David and all at Epilepsy Action Harrogate for their years of dedicated fundraising and for creating such a thriving group for people to share experiences.”