Vince Cable, Lib Dem deputy leader, asks about ME biomedical research

June 13, 2008

Vince Cable MP, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, tabled a question about biomedical research into ME and funding of clinical co-ordinating centres in the House of Commons. A written answer was provided yesterday by Ian Pearson MP, minister of state for science and innovation at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. The extract from Hansard appears below.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how much has been allocated from public funds for research into the biomedical causes of myalgic encephalomyelitis/encephalopathy in 2008-09; what proportion of Government spending on research into the condition this sum represents; how much has been allocated for research into psychological conditions in 2008-09; and how many clinical co-ordinating centres serving patients with psychological disorders have (a) closed and (b) had a reduction in public funding since 2003.

Ian Pearson: The Medical Research Council is one of the main agencies through which the Government support medical and clinical research. Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a strategic priority area for the MRC and the Council is continuing to promote research in this area. The MRC does not have set budgets for specific illnesses and research proposals in all areas compete for the funding available. The MRC welcomes applications for support into any aspect of human health and these are subject to peer review and judged in open competition, with awards being made on the basis of the scientific quality of the proposals made.

The MRC currently supports a number of studies in CFS/ME, as follows:

  • Professor K. Bhui, Queen Mary and Westfield College: Chronic fatigue and ethnicity (£162,000)
  • Dr. C. Clark, Centre for Psychiatry, Barts and the London School of Medicine: General and specific risk markers and preventive factors for chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndromes (funding approved in November 2007 £367,000)
  • Professor A. J. Weardon et al, University of Manchester: Randomised controlled trial of nurse-led self-help treatment for primary care patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (£743,000)
  • Professor P. D. White et al, Queen Mary and Westfield College: The PACE Trial: A RCT of CBT, graded exercise, adaptive pacing and usual medical care for the chronic fatigue syndrome (£2.07 million)

The Department of Health does not allocate funding specifically for psychological centres. Primary care trusts (PCTs) have the responsibility for providing funding for health and social care services to meet the needs of their local population from their general funding allocation. Information on the number of psychological centres is not collected centrally.

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