“‘Milestone’ celebrated as ME document is sent to GPs”

From the Edinburgh Evening News, 18 March 2009 (Story by Adam Morris)

FOR years it has been dismissed as "yuppie flu", fuelling a perception that it has received little attention from doctors. But campaigners for recognition of ME as a serious illness both in the medical world and among the general public are celebrating what they are branding a "milestone" move.

Following pressure from an NHS Lothian study, the Scottish Government has circulated a document to all GPs asking them to look more closely at the symptoms and treatment of the chronic illness, which causes extreme tiredness and pain.

It is another significant progression for the condition in Scotland and further abandons the idea that sufferers are merely lazy or behaving like hypochondriacs.

The Scottish Good Practice Statement on ME comes after an internal report by NHS Lothian which acknowledges ME – or chronic fatigue syndrome – has been neglected for years and related services are in desperate need of a shake-up.

In the document, GPs are told that ME causes "significant ill health and disability in a number of adults, young people and children".

Symptoms include unexplained fatigue, sleep dysfunction and pain, and that once these are evident for six months (three months for children), diagnosis can be made.

It adds that the quicker a diagnosis can be made, the less severe impact ME can have on a victim’s life. Emotional support and counselling are also pushed in the document to give maximum support to the estimated 4,000 people in the Lothians who could be affected by ME.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh ME Self-Help Group, which lobbies for improvements in medical and public awareness, said: "This is actually something of a milestone.

"Some people do have very good doctors, but there are still those who know little about the subject, and we are pleased it is moving in the right direction.

"The ultimate goal is to have ME considered alongside other long-term illnesses like MS and rheumatoid arthritis."

Public Health Minister Shona Robison said both the Lothian study and the new advice for GPs were very important pieces of work.

"I welcome the contribution they will make to the care of people with ME here in Scotland."

My fatigue is worse than dismissive jibes

LIZ BLACKADDER has become hardened to the dismissive jibes surrounding ME.

The constant pain and fatigue she endures is far more of a concern than people dismissing the disease as one that only manifests itself in lazy people.

Yet the 60-year-old from Marchmont can see both sides of the argument from when she was a careers adviser, a job she loved but was forced to give up because of ME when it was diagnosed in 1986.

She said: "Unless you have it, it is very difficult to understand, and I know that when I was a careers officer I wasn’t always sympathetic with people who said they had a disability which meant they couldn’t work.

"What a lot of people don’t appreciate is the pain. Around 80 per cent of people with ME suffer this. It makes everything difficult, even getting out of bed sometimes.

"I had to give up a job I absolutely loved and it impacted on me so much."

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