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Fibromyalgia: Diagnosis

Volume 652: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2019

4. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of primary care in diagnosing fibromyalgia; and if he will make a statement. (908559)

Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be difficult because there is no specific diagnostic test and symptoms can vary. A range of support exists to help GPs, including an e-learning course developed by the Royal College of General Practitioners and Versus Arthritis, and a medical guide on diagnosis and treatment developed by Fibromyalgia Action UK.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. I just hot-footed it here from Westminster Hall, where an excellent debate on fibromyalgia took place this morning. We heard a huge amount of evidence about people who suffer with fibromyalgia having waited more than a year to be diagnosed and having received treatments irrelevant to their condition. Clearly, diagnosis is not working at the moment. What more can the Minister tell us about investment in research to improve diagnosis and to try to get better outcomes for fibromyalgia sufferers?

I feel that my colleague the Secretary of State has set the bar for compliments to Members this morning. On that basis, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his Westminster Hall debate, which raised a key issue. The Department’s National Institute for Health Research welcomes funding applications for research into any aspect of human health, including fibromyalgia. Its support for that research over the past five years includes £1.8 million funding for research projects and £0.6 million funding for clinical trials through the clinical research network.

Will the Minister endorse the excellent work by Sue Worrall and her team at Walsall Fibro and ME Link, whose monthly meetings seek to tackle the isolation frequently associated with those conditions?

I warmly welcome the organisation that my hon. Friend mentioned. There are some outstanding voluntary community-led organisations up and down the country that provide invaluable support for people who suffer from this condition. We know that symptoms can vary and that it can be incredibly distressing, so that support is enormously valuable.

The effectiveness of primary care in this and many other areas is undermined for the most vulnerable and poorest communities by this Government’s insistence on putting out GP contracts for competitive tender, even when there is no competition to serve poor communities. The Watson review of GP partnerships was published today. Will the Minister commit to reviewing the requirement for competitive tender for GP partnerships?

We do of course support the recommendations that were part of that review. We have announced massive investment in primary and community services and spend on those services will grow as the NHS budget grows.