The Community Epilepsy Outreach Service collected the Popular Choice Award, which was decided by a special online voting poll, at a ceremony held in Dublin last night.
The service was established just two years ago with the aim of providing a high-quality specialist epilepsy care service to people with an intellectual disability and living in residential care.
The team includes a consultant epileptologist and an epilepsy registrar who visit clients in their homes and also provide ongoing telephone-based care in between visit.
The service currently visits 10 different residential sites, run by the Cope Foundation, the Brothers of Charity and St Raphael’s, and has assessed more than 200 clients.
Dr Daniel Costello, a consultant neurologist and a member of the team, said the home visit model made it easier “to get a better understanding of how well controlled their epilepsy is”.
He said the model also meant there was less need for the client to attend hospital, and that the supporting telephone service helped people to deal with any difficulties between visits.
The registrar, Dr Ronan McGinty, said the phone service also allowed clients to seek advice if they were experiencing any difficulties such as side effects linked to the use of medication, meaning there was “continuity of care”.
“It helps people to get the help they need in a much more dignified way,” he said. “It is flexible to their needs.”
According to the HSE, around 50% of people with moderate-severe intellectual disability have epilepsy which can be treatment-resistant and highly complex to manage, while people with intellectual disabilities living in residential care settings can have difficulty accessing traditional hospital-based outpatient services.
The HSE said of the project: “The main goals of the project were to improve seizure control, reduce the burden of seizure-related injuries and deaths, reduce the adverse side-effects from medication, cut hospital admissions and improve the involvement of clients, carers and families in the management of epilepsy.
“The project also worked to reduce overall healthcare costs by reducing seizure-related injuries, unnecessary prescriptions and avoidable hospital admissions.”
The project, which was one of a number shortlisted for the award, was led by Community Healthcare Organisation Area 4 (Cork and Kerry) and the South / South West Hospital Group in the HSE.
Dr McGinty said of the accolade: “It is fantastic news. We are really happy that such a simple idea — it is not something fancy or rocket science — which has made a genuine difference to people, has been recognised.”