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Lyme Disease

Volume 657: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2019

The National Institute for Health Research is supporting the study of Lyme disease by researching markers that would offer a faster and more accurate diagnosis. Meanwhile, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published clinical guidance for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease for healthcare professionals.

Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed or diagnosed late, which results in widespread suffering such as joint pain, paralysis and brain damage. Will the Minister therefore join me in congratulating the charity Caudwell LymeCo, which has pledged £1 million in research funding, and will her Department commission research on a better test for the disease?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. We know that the outcome of Lyme disease depends on whether it is diagnosed and treated at an early stage. That is why my Department commissioned four separate independent systematic reviews of all the relevant literature on the diagnosis, treatment, transition and prevention of the disease, which were published in December 2017 and which assess the existing evidence for the research community, research funders and the public. We welcome all independent researchers who want to do more work on that basis.

My constituents have faced many challenges in relation to Lyme disease. They have had to go overseas to be tested and given a diagnosis. However, the NHS does not recognise those tests. What is the Minister doing about that?

Most people are diagnosed and treated successfully by GPs and recover uneventfully, but in a few cases people who are diagnosed late or are not treated adequately may develop significant complications. That is why the National Institute for Health Research welcomes applications for research funds.

22. Earlier this month I visited a young lady in my constituency who was living a perfectly good life but was then struck down by Lyme disease. She has not left the House in over 12 months and is in terrible pain all the time. The NHS in this country did not find a diagnosis from her blood sample; it had to be sent to Germany to get the diagnosis. An awful lot more needs to be done to help these people. (910045)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this: we do need to do more in this space, and that is why we are investing over £1 billion a year in health research through the National Institute of Health Research.

What evaluation is being put in place to see how effective the 2018 NICE guidelines for clinicians on managing Lyme disease are in improving the treatment of this dreadful disease?

All NICE guidelines are permanently kept under review. If the research we are investing in throws new light on any issues, that will always be taken into consideration.