Part of: Ill Health and Disability

Related to: [[Health Checks]], Learning Disabilities, Major Causes of Mortality

Key Facts:

  • There are 1,162 (2012/13) people 18 years and over registered with epilepsy in GP practises in Bath and North East Somerset.
  • General mortality rates from epilepsy are low, with a rate of 1 per 100,000 recorded in 2010.


Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and causes repeated seizures. The neuron cells in the brain communicate with each other using electric impulses. During a seizure, the electrical impulses are disrupted, which can cause the body to behave strangely. The severity of the seizures can differ from person to person. Some people simply experience a ‘trance-like’ state for a few seconds or minutes, while others lose consciousness and have convulsions.

Epilepsy can be caused by many things, but it is usually a result of some form of brain damage. Epilepsy can be defined as being one of three types, depending on what caused the condition. These are:

  • Symptomatic epilepsy – when the symptoms of epilepsy are due to damage or disruption of the brain.
  • Cryptogenic epilepsy – when no evidence of damage to the brain can be found, but other symptoms, such as learning difficulties, suggest that damage to the brain has occurred.
  • Idiopathic epilepsy – when no obvious cause of epilepsy can be found.

Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), while rare, is one of the main dangers associated with epilepsy. 1

What does the data say?

Approximately 600,000 people in the UK have a diagnosis of epilepsy and take anti-epileptic drugs. This is equivalent to approximately 1 in 103 people. 2

The prevalence rate of epilepsy in the UK is approximately 9.7 per 1,000 or 0.97%. 3

Every year in the UK between 500 and 1,000 people die as a result of sudden unexpected death caused by epilepsy (SUDEP), this is less than 1% of peoplewith epilepsy. 4


The estimated numbers and rates of people with epilepsy amongst the following age groups in the UK are:

  • Children aged 4 years and under - 7,600 or 1 in 509.
  • Children aged 16 years and under- 51,500 or 1 in 240.
  • Children and young people aged 18 years and under - 63,400 or 1 in 220.
  • People 25 years of age and under-112,700 or 1 in 177.
  • People aged 65 and over -154,000 or 1 in 67.

Women of childbearing age (12 – 50) - 139,000. As a proportion of the total population of people with epilepsy this equals 23 per cent. 5

Epilepsy rates in Bath and North East Somerset

Figure 1: Estimated numbers of people with epilepsy in the UK for different age groups. 6

People with Learning Disabilities and epilepsy

People with epilespy often have [[People with Multiple Conditions]] additional needs More than one in five people with epilepsy have learning or intellectual disabilities. 7 13–24% of people with a learning disability are affected by epilepsy. 8

The prevalence rate of epilepsy amongst people with learning disabilities has been reported to be at least twenty times higher than for the general population, with seizures commonly multiple and resistant to drug treatment. 9

Bath and North East Somerset

There are 1,162 (2012/13) people of 18 years and over registered with epilepsy in GP practises in Bath and North East Somerset. 10

The rate of epilepsy in those aged 18 and over in the GP registered population in Bath and North East Somerset has remained at 0.7% between 2008-2013.* 11

The prevalence rate of epilepsy (ages 18+) in B&NES is slightly lower than nationally which has had prevalence rates of around 0.8% between 2008-2013.  12


Figure 2: Epilepsy prevalence (ages 18+) in B&NES and England GP 18 years + registered populations (2008/09 – 2012/13) 13

*It is important to note that the above rates are based on the GP registered population of Bath and North East Somerset and so some of these people may not be residents of Bath North East Somerset. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people will be registered with a GP in their county of residence.

For more up to date prevalence figures for epilepsy recorded as part of the NHS Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), see the Ill Health and Disability section. 

Are we meeting the needs?

Mortality from epilepsy has remained relatively flat since 1993. Mortality rates in Bath and North East Somerset vary a great deal year on year and so it is difficult to quantify a trend although if a logarithmic trend line is added it shows that there has been a slight decrease rates. 14

Generally mortality rates for epilepsy in Bath and North East Somerset are low, with the highest being 4 per 100,000 in 1995, and in 2010 they were around 1 per 100,000. 15

What can we realistically change?

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)(2012-2013) guidance