Further delay in the appointment of an ME consultant in Norfolk and Suffolk

March 11, 2010

From the Eastern Daily Press, 11 March 2010 (story by Victoria Nicholls)

People suffering from ME across Norfolk and Suffolk face a further wait for new services, after health bosses missed their own deadline to bring in a specialist consultant.

In November members of the Suffolk and Norfolk Joint Health Scrutiny Committee were told that the new service would be in place within three months.

But at the committee meeting yesterday they were informed that still no-one had been appointed.

The consultancy post is part of a programme by NHS trusts for Norfolk, Suffolk, and Great Yarmouth and Waveney to improve services for patients suffering from Myalgic Encephalomylitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Scrutiny board member and Great Yarmouth borough councillor Shirley Weymouth accused people behind the process of being “lax” after the failed pledge that was made by Chris Humphris , of NHS Great Yarmouth & Waveney.

She said: “I'm very concerned, it's just promise after promise after promise. Chris Humphris promised to have a consultant in place within three months and that was November. Now you're still in discussions so that's very, very concerning. The service hasn't been implemented.”

James Elliott, deputy director of commissioning and performance for NHS Great Yarmouth & Waveney, said some progress had been made, in that discussions were taking place with a specialist from Hammersmith Hospital, who had agreed “in principle” to take on the role. He added that he hoped the service would be in place by the end of June.

The other two parts of the programme will see an expansion of current services for people with ME that will include opening two additional sites in Suffolk and two in Norfolk, and issuing better educational material to GPs.

Patient representative Barbara Robinson said there were 6,000-7,000 people with ME in Norfolk and Suffolk, and that the backlog of patients needing treatment was growing by the day, adding: “Currently GPs are beside themselves and doing all sorts of dreadful things because they are being left without direction.”

She said community services staff were doing “brilliant” work, but were struggling with a lack of support, management and resources.

Mrs Robinson said after the meeting that the issue had gone on for too long, and that it had been promised at a board meeting in July 2009 that the issue would be addressed. She said: “Commissioning in Norfolk see this as a small insignificant irritation.”

She added: “It's incomprehensible.”

She said that six names had been put forward of practitioners who could be considered to provide piecemeal contracts to fill the position, and yet still the post had not been filled.

Members voted for a progress report to be made at its meeting in July.

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