This is a summary of key points to emerge from two routine meetings of The ME Association Board of Trustees.These meetings took place at our Head Office in Buckingham on Monday afternoon, September 6 and on Tuesday morning, September 7 2010. This is a summary of the Board meetings – not the official minutes.
The order of subjects below is not necessarily in the order that they were discussed.
Where appropriate, there is background information relating to the issue being discussed..
The final part of the summary also contains key points from the AGM held on Tuesday afternoon, results of trustee elections, and the post AGM Board of Trustees meeting.
Ewan Dale (ED) – Honorary Treasurer
Mark Douglas (MD)
Neil Riley (NR) – Chairman by telephone link.
Charles Shepherd (CS) – Honorary Medical Adviser
Barbara Stafford (BS) – Vice Chairman
Gill Briody (GB) – Company Secretary
Tony Britton (TB) – Publicity Manager
Rick Osman (RO)
Janet Thomas (JT)
FINANCES, ADMINISTRATION, PREMISES AND STAFF
ED updated trustees on the current financial situation. This was followed by a discussion on the monthly management accounts for the period up to the end of July 2010. There has been a continuing drop in some areas of income during the first seven months of 2010 when compared to the same period in 2009 – unrestricted donations and bank interest in particular. As a result, general expenditure is still running slightly ahead of unrestricted income.
Income from fundraising has shown a continuing and welcome increase over the same period in 2009. In order to cope with the increased demand on fundraising support services a new part-time post to deal with fundraising administration has been created. Applications for the new post are now being considered.
There has also been a significant increase over the past seven months in the ring-fenced funding held by the Ramsay Research Fund.
Trustees reviewed the changes in banking arrangements, aimed at improving interest received on deposit accounts, that have been carried out in the past few weeks in relation to both unrestricted general funds and restricted research money held in the Ramsay Research Fund.
Trustees held a further short discussion on some possible changes to The MEA Memorandum and Articles of Association to take account of expected new charity legislation.
Trustees passed on their best wishes to Lucy Kingham at Head Office – who is taking maternity leave in September – and finalised arrangements for a temporary member of staff to cover her absence.
Trustees had intended to spend part of Monday afternoon interviewing a potential new trustee but he was unable to attend. This interview was therefore postponed to a later date.
As reported previously, Janet Thomas had to withdraw from the 2010 trustee election due to ill health but will remain as an observer. It was agreed that she has been an excellent trustee and it is hoped that she will re-apply if her health improves.
We are still able to increase the number of co-opted trustees – so we are keen to hear from anyone who would like to discuss the possibility of joining the MEA in this role. Applications are welcome from people with ME, carers, and anyone who has a skill which they feel could be of benefit to the charity. In order to proceed with an application, non- members would have to become members of the MEA.
A further short discussion on the future growth of the MEA was held on Tuesday. This work includes the expansion of the services we already provide and new services that we would like to provide if/when the financial situation allows us to do so.
The MEA has to raise funds on top of membership subscriptions, which currently only provide around half of the general income that is required to fund the basic running of the charity and Head Office administration. We are also facing a situation whereby people are reducing donations to the charity sector. At the same time, demand on support and information services is increasing, especially in relation to benefit and employment information now that the welfare/benefit reforms and difficulties associated with the introduction of the ESA are taking effect. Trustees and staff therefore have to devote a significant part of their time to boosting fundraising activities in order to maintain our current level of services.
Northern Ireland fundraising for ME/CFS research. Mid Ulster Vintage Vehicles Tractor and Car Club: Sponsored trek from Moneymore to Castlerock-Limavady
TB reported on the outcome of the Mid-Ulster Vintage Vehicles Club's 100-mile vintage tractor and car trek, which this year has raised a substantial sum for the Ramsay Research Fund. The event started in Moneymore on Saturday 23rd July and finished the following day in Castlerock-Limavady. A tremendous effort has been put in by the O'Neil family – father John, sons Ronald and Richard and daughters Jacqui and Fiona. Following a request from the organisers, TB and CS will be travelling to Northern Ireland later this month for the presentation ceremony.
More information on this important fundraising event appeared in the July issue of ME Essential magazine.
2010 London Marathon
The MEA paid for two guaranteed places in the 2010 London Marathon – so we had two runners taking part as well as several other people running who raised money for The MEA. We would welcome offers from anyone who wants to raise funds in 2011 but we are not paying for any guaranteed places next year.
Amazon Walk to raise funds for a tissue and post-mortem/brain bank:
BS reported on the return of her son Ed, following completion of his epic Amazon Walk. Ed has walked solidly for 859 days and covered around 6,000 miles. He is the first person to carry out what has been an outstanding physical and mental challenge and he will quite rightly enter the history book of hazardous expeditions.
On his return in early August Ed appeared on a number of radio and television programmes – including GMTV, BBC Breakfast Time and the BBC One Show – and his story has been given extensive coverage in the UK and international press. A full summary of media coverage can be found on the MEA website news section.Ed's progress can still be be seen on his Amazon Walk blog >> http://www.walkingtheamazon.com .
Trustees discussed a number of ideas for possible fundraising events following his return home. One of Ed's first talks on the Amazon expedition will be given to a meeting of the Transglobe Expedition Trust at the Royal Geographical Society in November, where he will be joined by the distinguished explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Michael Palin.
Ed Stafford has a fundraising page for MEA/RRF research here.Around £8000 has been raised so far.
Vegepa for ME scheme The Vegepa for ME Scheme is proud to announce a new partnership with the ME Association's Ramsay Research Fund to run alongside their long-standing enterprise with ME Research UK in a joint effort to improve the lives of ME sufferers. From August 2010, The Scheme, which has donated over £36,000 since it started up in 2006, will be raising money for crucial biomedical research undertaken by both of these ME charities. The Vegepa for ME Scheme, devised and run by Lynne Kersh, mother of a daughter with long-term ME, has a secure website which sells clinical-grade, patented Vegepa and its various sister products.
MEA website shopping This facility on the MEA website home page provides a direct link to well known shops and on-line stores. Purchasing goods on-line from companies such as John Lewis, M&S, and Amazon via the MEA website is simple and we receive a commission of up to 15% from the shop at no charge whatsoever to the purchaser. Please give it a try! It only takes a few seconds to register for the service on the Easyfundraising.com website.
Mobile phone and ink cartridge returns and trolley coins MD reported on the latest financial returns from these on-going fundraising initiatives. Returns of ink jet cartridges continue to be a very successful source of income – so please keep sending them in. Trolley coins can be ordered using the pdf ORDER FORM on the MEA website: www.meassociation.org.uk, or the literature order form insert in the August issue of ME Essential magazine, or by phoning MEA Head Office on 01280 818964/818968. Envelopes for the return of ink cartridges and mobile phones can be ordered using the literature order form.
Christmas cards We have three cards for sale this year – details and pictures in the October issue of ME Essential magazine. A pdf order form can be downloaded the MEA website by clicking here.
Blue ribbons for ME Awareness These can be obtained using the pdf Order Form on the MEA website. Single ribbons cost £1 with a discount for bulk orders over 20.
Summer Raffle This was drawn at the end of July and the winner of the first prize kindly sent the same amount back to the MEA!
Fundraising information Fundraising leaflets are available for use at events and for approaches to sponsors and requests for donations. Free copies can be obtained by phoning MEA Head Office on 01280 818968.
APPG CS updated trustees on events that had taken place to set up a new APPG on ME following the General Election. This involved finding a new Chairman because Dr Des Turner had retired at the election, as well as finding a small group of other parliamentarians willing to take up the post of Treasurer, Secretary etc.
An inaugural meeting was held on 8 July – shortly before Parliament broke up for the long summer holidays. Those present agreed that David Amess MP would take on the role of Chairman. Other officers elected: Annette Brooke MP (Vice Chair); John Leech MP (Secretary) and Martin Vickers MP (Treasurer). A copy of the Minutes for this meeting can be found in July ME Essential magazine and on the MEA website. The current list of members of the new APPG can be found here.
A planning meeting was proposed for September but no date has yet been fixed.
Further details of the agenda, time, venue for the next full APPG will appear on the MEA website as soon as they become available. It is advisable to check with the MEA website the day before APPG meetings in case any late changes are made.
Neil Riley, Chairman of the MEA, wrote to Dr Des Turner to express our thanks for chairing the APPG and wishing him a happy retirement from Westminster.
The August MEA website poll asked people what they felt was the most important topic for the new APPG on ME to take on. Votes were as follows:
Medical Education: 274
MRC research: 100
NHS Services: 78
NICE guideline review: 74
Severely affected: 47
These results have now been forwarded to David Amess, along with a summary of recent developments relating to benefits, research, NICE guidelines, Lightning Process research etc.
APPG Inquiry into NHS Services Trustees previously agreed to help fund the production of some paper copies of the report because we believe this information should be readily available to members of the public who do not have internet access. A paper copy of the final report has been added to the MEA literature list (as a free item) in ME Essential. The report can also be downloaded from the MEA website or the APPG website: http://www.appgme.org.uk
Countess of Mar's Group: FORWARD ME The meeting planned for Wednesday 7th July, at which the group intended to discuss a range of current issues, had to be cancelled due to the Countess of Mar being unwell. A new date has not yet been arranged for this meeting.
The Forward ME Group website >> http://www.forward-me.org.uk has information about the group and archives of minutes from past meetings, including a detailed summary of the presentation on benefit issues (ICB and ESA in particular) from Dr James Bolton, Deputy Chief Medical Adviser at the DWP, to the last meeting.:
Trustees discussed the current situation regarding benefit problems, the changeover from ICB to ESA starting in October, and the Independent Review of the WCA. A copy of the MEA submission to this review can be found on the MEA website here.
NICE GUIDELINE REVIEW
CS reported on correspondence with NICE regarding the date of the proposed guideline review. A copy of our most recent reply from NICE dated 23 August can be found on the MEA website here.
RESEARCH AND RAMSAY RESEARCH FUND (RRF)
RRF: XMRV and MLV: Trustees discussed the latest XMRV research results from validation studies that have been reported in the medical journals – in particular the results from the study by Lo et al that supports a link between retroviral infection (XMRV or MVL) and ME/CFS. The MEA summary and statement on this paper can be found in the website news section here.
The role of the MEA Ramsay Research Fund in supporting UK research groups who want to try and replicate/validate the American findings, or do other relevant work on XMRV was discussed. CS reported on the various contacts and discussions he is continuing to have with virologists on how best to take this research forward in the UK – including the current initiative to retest anyone here in the UK who has sent a blood sample to the US laboratory. The MEA has issued regular website position statements on XMRV and will continue to do so. We have also written to Sir Liam Donaldson, the previous Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, about the XMRV research findings and the implications for blood donation and blood transfusion. We have now written to Dame Shirley Davies, the new acting CMO, about extending the blood donation ban to people who have recovered from ME/CFS. A reply from the new CMO states that the current ban will be extended to include anyone with a past history of ME/CFS as from 1 November. This will cover the whole of the UK.
RRF: Professor Julia Newton et al, University of Newcastle CS reported that assessments have been performed on 25 subjects who have been recruited via the Northern Regional ME/CFS Clinical Service. The initial assessment procedures include testing autonomic nervous system function, muscle performance, exercise physiology and body composition (ie the amount of fat and muscle present). The next phase of the study will involve the use of magnetic resonance spectroscopy to assess the way in which their muscle is producing energy and lactic acid. Further information on this study can be found in the August 2009 issue of ME Essential magazine.
RRF funding = approximately £13,800.
Newcastle University Fatigue Research Symposium: Dr Shepherd met Professor Newton at this research meeting which was held on Thursday 10th June at the University of Newcastle. There were presentations from Professor Newton and colleagues on muscle and autonomic dysfunction research involving people with ME/CFS. The meeting focussed on muscle research and considered the role of fatigue in other medical conditions such as HIV and other infections, mitochondrial myopathies, primary biliary cirrhosis and Sjogren's syndrome. The session on HIV and fatigue covered the important issue of muscle mitochondrial damage following antiretroviral therapy (AZT) and this is obviously going to be very relevant if it turns out that XMRV or MLV is a causative factor in ME/CFS and clinical trials involving antiretroviral therapy take place. A summary of the Newcastle meeting is available in the July issue of ME Essential magazine and on the on the MEA website here.
An abstract from a new research paper from Professor Newton's research group, which relates to an investigation into cardiac (heart) and skeletal muscle can be found on the MEA website here:
RRF: Factors involved in the development of severe ME/CFS The results of this questionnaire based research, carried out by Dr Derek Pheby and Dr Lisa Saffron, and funded by The ME Association, have been published in an open access on-line journal. More information, including a link to the paper, can be found on the MEA website here.
There is a vast amount of useful information in this paper for anyone with severe ME/CFS, especially those who are involved in disputes over benefits, social care etc.
RRF funding = approximately £30,000.
RRF: Gene expression research Results from a study into gene expression carried out by Professor John Gow and colleagues in Glasgow, and funded by the RRF, were published in the open access scientific journal, BMC Medical Genomics.
Although RRF funding has now finished, we remain in contact with Professor Gow and colleagues in Glasgow regarding further work in this important area.
RRF funding = approximately £38,000.
RRF: Post-mortem tissue bank feasibility study CS updated trustees on phase two of the feasibility study into the setting up of an ME/CFS brain and tissue bank. This has included a focus group meeting which allowed a group of people with ME/CFS to freely express their views on the various ethical, legal and practical issues surrounding tissue and post-mortem research. Work on phase two commenced in February and is being carried out by Dr Luis Nacul and colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. An article summarising all the various MEA post-mortem research initiatives that are taking place can be found on the research section of the MEA website. An article on phase two of this research appears in the February 2010 issue of ME Essential.
Trustees also discussed the various post-mortem research examinations, along with plans for publication, that we have been involved with. CS reported that results from four post-mortems will be presented and discussed at an international conference later in the year.
The next meeting with the researchers involved will take place on September 9th.
RRF funding = approximately £14,000
ME Observatory Steering Group The final stages of this work are proceeding to plan with several research papers being prepared or submitted for publication. The last MEO meeting discussed the various options for continuing some of the key work being done by the MEO – the Disease Register in particular – when Lottery funding ends in September. The Disease Register now has around 500 people with well characterised ME/CFS – new cases recruited from primary care and others with chronic severe disease via the CHROME database – and it is hoped that this important work will continue and be of use to the researchers in due course..
The ME Observatory has arranged a half day Dissemination Conference that will also cover issues relating to work, welfare and DWP benefits. This event has CPD (continuing professional development) accreditation and will take place in London on Saturday afternoon, 25th September. A senior person from the DWP that deals with ESA will be giving one of the presentations at this event.
Two MEO workshops will be taking place on 28 September (in Sheffield) and 29 September (Birmingham). The next MEO Steering Group meeting will be held on September 9th.
Medical Research Council (MRC) Expert Group on ME/CFS Research Two follow up meetings relating to the two day research workshop that was held on November 19th and 20th 2009 have been held. The minutes of the last meeting, which outlines priorities identified for MRC funded research, can be found on the MRC website. Summaries of the presentations and slides used at the November workshop are available on the MRC website. Further information on the MRC Expert Group can be found on page 12 of the May issue of ME Essential and on the MEA website here.
We are now awaiting a statement from the MRC as what action they propose to take on the recommendations for research priorities that have been made by the Expert Group.
Lightning Process Trustees held a further discussion on a new research study that has been announced into the use of the Lightning Process. Costing £164,000, the feasibility study will investigate how children and adolescents could be involved in a randomised controlled trial that will assess the Lightning Process and compare it to specialist medical care. Not surprisingly, a number of concerns have been raised about the possible use of children and adolescents in this type of study and we are discussing this with our colleagues in other ME/CFS charities. As a result of these discussion the MEA and the Young ME Sufferers Trust (Tymes Trust) issued a joint statement of concern, which can be found here.
This was sent to the Department of Health with a request that it should be forwarded to the ethics committee that is dealing with the application. The DoH have refused to do so – a decision which we believe is unacceptable.
FINE AND PACE Trials Responses to publication of the results from the FINE trial have appeared on the BMJ website, including one from The MEA. Trustees discussed the way in which results from the MRC funded FINE and PACE trials are likely to affect a review of the NICE guideline on ME/CFS. Responses to the results of the FINE trial can be accessed via the MEA website here.
We understand that results from the PACE trial will be reported to the BACME conference in October.
Biochemical and Vascular aspects of paediatric CFS
Trustees briefly discussed the University of Dundee research findings relating to infection and inflammation in children with ME/CFS that had received widespread media publicity on the BBC on Tuesday morning. CS also did some BBC interviews during the day, including Radio 5 Live during their lunchtime news programme. More information on this research can be found on the MEA website.
Sleep Disorders Conference CS has been invited to attend an important clinical and research conference in London in December that will be discussing all aspects of sleep disorders.
The MEA is now in a position to fund new research in addition to current commitments and the funding that has been set aside to help set up a UK tissue and post-mortem bank. Information on the work of the RRF can be downloaded from the research section of the MEA website.
ED reported on publication by the Scottish Health Department on 1 September of clinical guidance on ME/CFS for doctors in Scotland – a document that had originally been based based on the MEA purple booklet for health professionals: ME/CFS/PVFS: An Exploration of the Key Clinical Issues. Publication of the Scottish Public Health Network Needs Assessment has not yet taken place As noted in previous MEA Board meeting reports, the timescale for both projects had to be re-organised in 2009 and progress has been considerably delayed as a result.
Trustees discussed the content of the Scottish Good Practice Statement and the feedback so far from patient representatives that have been involved in their development. A preliminary MEA statement can be found on the MEA website here.
ED will be attending a meeting of the Cross Party Group committee on Wednesday 8th September and the full meeting of the CPG on Wednesday 22 September where the documents will be discussed.
MEA ANNUAL MEDICAL MEETING IN CARDIFF
Trustees finalised arrangements for our annual medical meeting. This is an open and free meeting in an ‘ME Question Time' format that we rotate around the country. Panel members will be Jane Colby (Tymes Trust), Sue Luscombe (Dietician), Neil Riley (Chairman, MEA), Dr Charles Shepherd (Hon Medical Adviser, MEA) and Dr Nigel Speight (Hon Paediatric Adviser, MEA). This year we are co-operating with the Welsh group WAMES and holding the meeting in Cardiff on Saturday 23rd October. More information can be found on page 3 in the July issue of ME Essential magazine or on the MEA website.
If any local groups are interested in co-hosting this meeting in 2011 please let us know.
The latest MEA Management File on Fatigue (involving both brain and muscle) appears in the July issue of ME Essential. A new Management File on the subject of XMRV and MLVs is now being prepared for the October issue of ME Essential.
An updated leaflet on dental anaesthetics has been prepared by Dr Richard Cantillon, our dental adviser.
The MEA now has almost 70 leaflets and booklets covering all aspects of research, diagnosis and management.
The MEA Management Report contains the final analysis of data from around 3500 on-line questionnaires and 750 paper questionnaires. The overall response makes this the largest ever survey of patient and carer opinion about management issues that has ever been undertaken here in the UK, possibly in the world. The report was distributed free as part of the May issue of ME Essential. It can also be downloaded from the MEA website – where over 3,000 people have already viewed the report. Extra paper copies can be obtained from the MEA at a cost of £2.50p. This research was funded by the Ramsay Research Fund – so any profits will go to the Ramsay Research Fund.
The October 2009 version of ME/CFS/PVFS – An Exploration of the Key Clinical Issues is continuing to be well received. This 36 page booklet for both doctors and people with ME/CFS contains references to all new research and treatment developments up to October 2009, including a prominent boxed section on the XMRV research findings. The MEA medical guideline is therefore the only substantial publication of this nature covering research, clinical assessment and management to also include XMRV research. As before, The MEA is willing to make a reduction in price for bulk orders from local groups, other ME/CFS charities and PCTs.
MEA literature can be obtained using the website pdf ORDER FORM or the 8-page order form insert in the July issue of ME Essential magazine, or by phoning Head Office on 01280 818064/818968.
Trustees discussed various matters relating to The MEA website.
The regular on-line survey feature remains very popular. Previous polls have asked about attitudes to post-mortem research (February 2009); GP skills and knowledge (March 2009); how much people have spent on services/treatments outside the NHS (May 2009), Vaccines as trigger factors (May 2010)and opinions on DWP medical assessments that have been carried out by ATOS. The current (September) question asks for opinions on how employers view ME/CFS . Results from all the previous on-line surveys can be found on the MEA website.
If anyone has any suggestions for future website polls please let us know.
Trustees reviewed the administration of telephone calls and emails received by ME Connect, our information and support service. Up to the end of July 2010 the service dealt with 1151 emails and 1727 phone calls – a total of nearly 3000 enquiries so fat this year. A recent check on telephone response times audit indicated that almost all calls were being answered either immediately or within a few minutes. However, there will always be occasions when a delay is inevitable due to the volunteer on duty having to deal with a difficult call.
ME Connect, our telephone information and support service, operates every day of the week from 10am – 12 noon; 2pm – 4pm and 7pm – 9pm. Tel: 0844 576 5326.
We are always keen to hear from anyone who would like to join ME Connect as a volunteer. If you are interested please contact the MEA via firstname.lastname@example.org
ME ESSENTIAL MAGAZINE
TB reported on plans for the October issue of ME Essential. Any remaining copy must be with Tony by the middle of September. We are aiming for publication in the middle of October.
The Editorial Board is always happy to receive constructive comments about any aspect of the magazine.
NEW SHORT FILM ON ME : ‘ALL ABOUT ME'
This is a new short documentary film (in two parts) about Laura Fursland, a very promising young music student who developed ME following an episode of glandular fever, with complications, at the age of 18. The film deliberately concentrates on Laura's story and how it has affected all aspects of her life – in particular how her life is now “on hold” and her plans to go to university to study music.
The medical input – covering key symptoms, possible causation, drug treatments and the losses/social isolation of living with ME at this age – is briefly inserted at various points. The film is not intended to focus on the medical and science behind ME/CFS.
This film was made by Teesside University with information being provided by the MEA.
MEA HEAD OFFICE: VOLUNTEERS WANTED
In addition to the telephone volunteers who deal with ME Connect enquiries, we have a small number of dedicated volunteers who come into the MEA office in Buckingham on a regular basis to help with various aspects of our work. If you know of anyone who lives locally to Buckingham, and would like to come into the office and help out on a flexible basis please get in touch with Gill Briody. The MEA office is modern, on the ground floor of an out-of-town site, has disabled access, and good free car parking facilities on site.
DATE OF NEXT BOARD MEETING
Fixed for Monday and Tuesday, 15th and 16th November 2010.
AGM AND TRUSTEE ELECTION RESULTS
The Annual General Meeting of the charity took place on Tuesday 7 September at the Head Office in Buckingham.
Neil Riley by telephone link
The minutes of the previous AGM were agreed.
Neil Riley presented the Chairman's report
Ewan Dale presented the Treasurer's report
Auditors for the financial year ending in December 2010 were appointed
Ewan Dale: 389 votes in favour, 12 votes against
Charles Shepherd: 410 votes in favour, 2 votes against
5 votes not accepted due to membership not being renewed
11 votes not accepted as received after the closing date
Both candidates were elected
A full report on the AGM will appear in the October issue of ME Essential
POST AGM BOARD MEETING
Neil Riley re-elected as Chair
Ba Stafford re-elected as Vice Chair
Ewan Dale re-elected as Treasurer
Gill Briody re-elected as Company Secretary
Summaries prepared by Dr Charles Shepherd, Trustee