Parliamentary Question: WHO classification of ME/CFS, 16 February 2011

Ian Swales, Lib Dem MP for Redcar, tabled a question about the accuracy of the WHO classification for ME/CFS which was contained in the reply given by Minister for Health Care Services Paul Burstow to his Private Member’s Debate in Westminster Hall on 2 February 2011.

Mr Swales asked the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the Minister of State’s contribution on 4 February 2011 [sic], Official Report, column 327WH, on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, what recent representations his Department has received on the definition of CFS/ME.

In a written reply on 16 February, Mr Burstow replied:

The Department has received, and continues to receive, a large volume of correspondence from stakeholders, and those living with this condition, on the definition and naming of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME).

During the Westminster Hall debate, on 4 February 2011, I said that the World Health Organisation uses the composite term CFS/ME for this condition. This was incorrect.

The World Health Organisation classes benign myalgic encephalomyelitis and post viral fatigue syndrome under the same classification G93.3 ‘diseases of the nervous system’; subheading ‘other disorders of the brain’.

The report of the CFS/ME Working Group to-the Chief Medical Officer, in January in 2002, suggested that the composite term CFS/ME be used as an umbrella term for this condition, or spectrum of disease. This term is also used by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence for their clinical guidelines.

We do, however, intend to seek further advice on our classification and will update the hon. Member in due course.

The video of the debate is still available at  and the Hansard transcript can be found at


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