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Fibromyalgia as a disability

Volume 641: debated on Monday 21 May 2018

The petition of residents of the United Kingdom ,

Declares that fibromyalgia should be considered a disability; further that individuals with the disease struggle daily and often do not receive the medical help or support that could and should be provided; and further that other nations such as the United States of America, are leading the way in fibromyalgia research, but the United Kingdom is not following suit.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to recognise fibromyalgia as a disability at last.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Toby Perkins, Official Report, 25 April 2018; Vol. 639, c. 985.]

[P002141]

Observations from the Minister for Care, (Caroline Dinenage), received 18 May 2018:

Fibromyalgia is incurable and debilitating long-term condition that can have a serious impact on an individual’s quality of life.

The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”, and defines long term as “having lasted, or being likely to last for at least 12 months, or likely to last for the rest of a person’s life”. By this definition fibromyalgia would be considered a disability.

Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, some treatments can ease symptoms and support improved quality of life for patients. The treatments offered will depend on the severity of a patient’s condition, but may include: pharmacological pain relief; physiotherapy; dietary and exercise advice; counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy; and self-management programmes which aim to give patients the skills and confidence to manage their conditions more effectively. There are also a number of NHS trusts that offer specialist fibromyalgia clinics, such as the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath, which patients can access on referral from the clinician responsible for their care.

Through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), we are investing over £1 billion a year in health research. The NIHR welcomes funding applications for research into any aspect of human health, including fibromyalgia. It is not usual practice to ring-fence funds for particular topics or conditions. Applications are subject to peer review and judged in open competition, with awards being made on the basis of the importance of the topic to patients and health and care services, value for money and scientific quality. NIHR support for fibromyalgia research over the last five years includes £1.8 million funding for research projects; £0.6 million funding for clinical trials through the NIHR clinical research network; and the NIHR has managed infrastructure supporting fibromyalgia research.