Dorset woman with severe ME ‘left to rot by the NHS’

To watch extended interviews about Libby Meyers which were broadcast on the BBC South news programme on 25 November, please click here. The item starts 11 minutes and 54 seconds into the programme, and it will be held in place by BBC iPlayer for a week after the broadcast.

From BBC News, 25 November 2010

A Dorset woman with severe ME who has been unable to leave her bed for eight years has been “left to rot” by the NHS, her family has said.

Libby Meyers, 62, is in a nursing home in Charlton Down near Dorchester but her family want her to be treated at a specialist NHS centre in Essex.

Her husband and daughter have appealed three times but their applications have been rejected by NHS Dorset.

The trust said it was working with the family to address their concerns.

ME, which stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis, is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and is characterised by prolonged fatigue associated with a symptoms such as muscle pain, headaches and sore joints.

Mrs Meyers’ husband Hugh, from Stratton near Dorchester, said his wife had simply been “abandoned” with no NHS treatment since 2007.

Her bed in the Chestnut Nursing Home is being paid for by the family.

Their third appeal against NHS Dorset’s decision not to fund treatment in Essex was turned down recently and they now have no further right to appeal.

He said: “She’s had assessments [by local NHS] and they’ve all said ‘sorry, she’s too severely ill and we’ve got nothing that can help her’.

“It may be expensive to send her to Essex but the cost implications of a woman of 62, who could probably survive in horrendous conditions for another 20 years, it doesn’t make sense.”

Their daughter Fiona Meyers said: “They’ve left mum to rot in a nursing home.

“I think it’s cruel, I think they’ve treated us with total disregard.

“She has no future, she has an existence at the moment because she is so ill and can do so little and she needs treatment.”

‘A scandal’

In a letter to the trust, Oliver Letwin, MP for West Dorset, said he was “dismayed” that attempts by Mr Meyers to obtain proper treatment had failed.

“If the PCT is refusing residential treatment out of the county, then it seems to me clear that there is an absolute obligation to provide proper treatment within the county,” he said.

“I really think that this case has reached the point at which it is becoming a scandal.”

The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Unit at Queen’s Hospital in Romford specialises in patients who can no longer be treated in the community.

Patients are admitted for up to six months, at a cost of up to £90,000.

Professor Leslie Findley said: “We know what happens if they don’t get any treatment – most of them stay the way they are.”

He said two thirds of patients treated at the unit have experienced “significant functional benefits”.

“If they’re bed-bound, they’re no longer bed-bound, if they’re house-bound they’re no longer house-bound, if they can’t go to work, they’re starting to go to work,” he explained.

NHS Dorset said it could not discuss the case because of patient confidentiality but confirmed it was working with Mrs Meyers’ family to address their concerns.

It added: “NHS Dorset is the commissioner of quality healthcare for people throughout the county and needs to ensure that any treatment is clinically effective.”

About 150,000 people in the UK have ME and of them about 3% have symptoms classed as severe.

Look at the video clip here.

Story in the Dorset Echo, 25 November 2010




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