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Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what targets he has to increase awareness of myalgic encephalomyelitis; and if he will make a statement; [113044](2) if he will make a statement on regional variations in the incidence of myalgic encephalomyelitis. [113045]

We helped raise awareness of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), by publishing the report of the Independent Working Group in January 2002. In October 2002, we made the national health service aware, through the "Chief Executive's Bulletin" and the "GP Bulletin", of the guidance produced by Action for ME called "Guidance on the Management of CFS/ME".On 12 May 2003,I announced that £8.5 million would be made available for services specifically designed for people with CFS/ME. The funding will be used to develop services for people with CFS/ME. In July, health organisations will be invited to bid for development funds to set up centres of expertise to develop clinical care, support clinical research and expand education and training programmes for health care professionals and to establish satellite community multidisciplinary teams. The first phase of development will commence in April 2004.Information on the prevalence of individual conditions is not collected centrally. The report of the independent CFS/ME working group, published in January 2002, estimated a population prevalence of around 0.2–0.4 per cent, in adults and around 0.07 per cent, in children. They made no analysis of regional variations.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will commission a research project into myalgic encephalomyelitis and the (a) suspected causes, (b) the scale of the problem, (c) the treatments available and (d) the number of specialists employed by the NHS to whom GPs can refer patients with ME-like symptoms. [113800]

The main Government agency for research into the causes and treatment of disease is the Medical Research Council (MRC), which receives its funding from the Department of Trade and Industry via the Office of Science and Technology. The MRC published a research strategy for chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) on 1 May.The strategy will enable researchers and funders to develop research proposals on all aspects of this illness. It was developed by an independent research advisory group in response to a request from the Chief Medical Officer, and was informed by contributions from pstients, carers, charities, researchers and clincians via a consultation exercise in summer 2002.The MRC has announced two initiatives in response to the strategy. One is a notice to the research community welcoming high quality proposals across the entire spectrum of CFS/ME research. The other is a scientific meeting to discuss the potential to use existing UK resources and infrastructures to undertake epidemiological studies in this country. In addition, the MRC has just announced funding for two trials that will look at the effectiveness of various treatments for CFS/ME. The results of these trials will help patients and their doctors to choose the best treatment. These complementary trials will assess a variety of treatments and in doing so will both help address important issues for those with CFS/ME.The first trial known as PACE (Pacing, Activity and Cognitive behaviour therapy: a randomised Evaluation) will make the first assessment of a treatment choice popular with patients called 'Pacing'. The second trial, known as FINE, (Fatigue Intervention by Nurses Evaluation) will test two different treatments that are particularly suited to helping reach those who are too ill to attend a specialist clinic as patients will be treated by nurses in their own homes.