This year has been testing for Epilepsy Research UK. As we excitedly embarked on implementing our ambitious strategy Going Further, we never thought the world would come to a standstill.
The impact of the pandemic on people living with epilepsy has been severe, with many experiencing more seizures due to the increased stress, loss of sleep and high fevers. Access to medicines remain a concern and waiting times for epilepsy surgery and video telemetry have increased substantially – putting people with uncontrolled epilepsy at increased risk of sudden unexpected death.
We’re not out of the woods yet. This is an ongoing crisis, and the severity of the situation has hugely impacted our ability to raise funds for research and the ability of our researchers to continue their studies.
Despite the many challenges we’ve faced, we are proud that ERUK has continued to be the driving force behind epilepsy research. Over the past year our community used its skills and expertise to respond with creativity and innovation to continue our mission.
In the midst of all the various lockdowns, we’ve seen ERUK at its most agile and responsive. Though delayed by the pandemic, we continue to forge ahead with our strategy. This year, thanks to two exceptionally generous legacies, we’ve been able to award £1.3m to 18 exciting new projects.
We’ve launched virtual fundraising events so our amazing supporters could stay connected. We developed an online programme of events to continue the information sharing and collaborations vital for future breakthroughs. And, we rapidly put plans in place to protect our researchers from the damaging impact of COVID-19, by increasing funding and extending deadlines.
It’s been heartening to see in these uncertain times how our supporters have stood by us, and by doing so have enabled us to stand by our funded researchers. Our researchers too have shown great resilience. When they were forced to close the door to their laboratories, they opened their laptops – analysing and publishing research data, moving studies online, making new applications for funding and writing research papers.
COVID-19 has made us rethink how we can maximise the impact of research. We don’t just want to get back to the pre-pandemic days, we want epilepsy research to be even stronger than before.
With the strength of our researchers, supporters and staff we will continue to navigate our way through these uncertain times. Thank you for being a much valued member of our community – and together we will not only recover, but will strengthen research into epilepsy for the future.
Professor Matthew Walker, Chair of Trustees Maxine Smeaton, Chief Executive