Before Members of the Scottish Parliament stood down earlier this week, 2 April 2007, prior to elections on 3 May, a number of Parliamentary groups and committees prepared legacy papers to inform the work of the next session.
One of the first of these to publish was the Cross Party Group on M.E. (myalgic encephalomyelitis / encephalopathy) , a chronic neurological illness which is estimated to affect over 27,000 Scots.
"M.E. is a widely misunderstood illness," explains the Cross Party Group Convener, Bruce Crawford MSP, regional Member for Mid Scotland and Fife. "Around 25% of people with M.E. are so severely affected that they are either housebound or bedbound. Common symptoms include overwhelming exhaustion, muscle pain, headache, nausea, digestive problems, poor concentration and memory loss.
"The Cross Party Group is calling for the establishment of a centre of excellence to coordinate biomedical research into the condition."
A centre of excellence would not only draw on academic research at home and abroad, it would also promote wider public understanding, identify best clinical practice and share the information across Scotland.
The idea is supported by Alex Fergusson MSP, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, whose family has been affected by M.E.
"The Cross Party Group would also like to see government funding of M.E. research, ring-fenced if possible," said Alex, who is secretary to the Cross Party Group on M.E.
Other proposals include a national Managed Clinical Network (MCN) for M.E., similar to those multi-disciplinary health and social care teams which exist for other conditions, and improved education of all health professionals in the recognition, treatment and management of M.E., both in initial training and in continuing professional development.
The legacy paper, which was drafted in consultation with a number of M.E. charities and local support groups, also supports recent joint charity statements which have criticised draft guidelines produced by the Department for Work and Pensions and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
Copies of the legacy paper on M.E. are available from Susan Webster of Action for M.E., who provides the Secretariat for the Group. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org