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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GP quits over allocations

GPs should not prescribe drugs to patients with suspected epilepsy until a specialist

confirms the diagnosis ­ despite long neurology waiting lists, according to new NICE guidelines.

The guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy say patients should be seen by a specialist within two weeks of GP referral.

Guideline development group chair Dr Henry Smithson, a GP in Escrick, North Yorkshire, admitted this would be a difficult target to achieve in many areas because of

the shortage of neurologists.

He said GPs should not initiate drugs but should keep in contact with patients and provide them with information during the waiting period ­

although he urged GPs to contact the specialist for advice if the waiting time was 'significant'.

NICE continues to recommend that newer anti-epileptic drugs lamotrigine and oxcarbazepine should only be used as second-line therapy. First-line treatment should be confined to sodium valproate and carbamazepine, NICE advised.

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