From the Manchester Evening News, 18 February 2010

Health bosses have pulled the plug on two new ME clinics in Tameside and Glossop in a bid to claw back a big budget deficit.

The clinics were due to open last year to treat some of the estimated 1,000 people living with the illness and following five years’ lobbying by campaigners.

Tameside and Glossop Primary Care Trust says money problems mean the service is no longer a priority.

Chief executive Tim Riley admitted last year that the PCT faced an £18m shortfall if savings could not be made.

The news has left many sufferers reeling, including Derek Vernon, of Stockport ME Group, who is now calling on people to write to Mr Riley.

Derek, 66, has been campaigning for better services since falling ill with the condition which is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). At his worst he couldn’t walk or talk, was forced to give up work and could only feed himself with a spoon.

He said: “This illness is treatable but if you don’t have a specialist team working with the patients they will not recover and that’s the absolute tragedy. It has been classed as a neurological illness, it’s as disabling as MS or arthritis yet it’s ignored.”

A lack of knowledge about the disease means it can take a decade or more to diagnose. Patients are referred by their GPs to the clinics which include specialist nurses and occupational therapists.

Derek added: “We estimate there are 1,000 cases in Tameside and Glossop with 100 new cases a year.”

Melanie Sirotkin, director of public health at the PCT, said: “We see ME/CFS as important but had to balance the advantages of setting up a brand new service to provide additional support to sufferers of this condition, with the maintenance of existing services to treat other conditions. We are committed to working to ensure that our health professionals are kept informed about ME/CFS so people can access the treatment already available to them.”