Parliamentary Question: WHO classification of ME, 1 March 2011

March 2, 2011

The contribution of Minister for Public Health Paul Burstow to the Private Member's debate on ME on 2 February 2011 has led to another Parliamentary Question on the subject.

The Countess of Mar tabled a written question that asked the Government further to the Minister's statement that the World Health Organisation described myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) and that this was the convention followed by the Department, in light of the fact that the WHO International Classification of Diseases 10 lists ME as a neurological disease with post viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS) under G93.3 and CFS as a mental health condition under F48.0 and that the latter specifically excludes PVFS, whether they will adhere to that classification.

In a written answer sent to the Countess on 1 March 2011, health minister Earl Howe replied:

The Department will continue to use the composite term chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) for this condition, or spectrum of disease, as suggested by the Chief Medical Officer in his 2002 report. We recognise the condition as neurological in nature.


Mr Burstow's response to Ian Swales MP on the same subject on 16 February, 2011.

10 thoughts on “Parliamentary Question: WHO classification of ME, 1 March 2011”

    1. As the organisation who purports to represent ME patients and lobby government, the MEA ought to be completely up to speed on this issue.
      Clearly they are not.

      1. How so?

        Did the MEA brief the Countess?

        The WHO reference in any case is out of date. If anyone should amend their descriptors it is the World Health Organisation.

        I still don’t understand why this is being debated. Burstow made a mistake with his ‘terminology’ of CFS/ME and that is was recognised by WHO as neurological, he’s apologised.

        End of story. Ding, ding, move along please.

        1. It’s not that simple.
          The very nature of Burstow’s error lies at the very heart of people’s difficulties getting properly diagnosed and being treated fairly within the benfits system.
          Like it or not, those things should not be simply glossed over.

      2. Dr Charles Shepherd

        The MEA is in regular contact with the Countess of Mar but we did not brief her on the wording of this particular question.

        I have sent a note of clarification on the current situation regarding classification of ME, CFS, PVFS and fatigue syndrome in ICD10.

  1. To explain further. Is the above exactly what the countess of Mar asked? If she did, it is incorrect.

  2. Ok I am going to laugh now, not at you JT, but at this whole sorry mess and all the time it has taken up.

    Check out Ian Swales’ website.

    I tell you the right hand does not have a clue about the left hand and we – the patients and sufferers – are the dangly bits left hanging in the middle.

    For the sake of the Gods – leave it alone. 🙂

  3. Dr Shepherd has said that he would be discussing this misconception with the Countess of Mar.

    To clarify, in ICD-10:

    Chronic fatigue syndome is included in Volume 3: The Alphabetical Index.

    It is indexed to G93.3 – that is Chapter VI (6): Diseases of the nervous system – the same code at which Postviral fatigue syndrome and Myalgic encephalomyelitis are classified.

    The ICD-10 Mental and behavioural disorders chapter is Chapter V (5).

    In Chapter V (5), Postviral fatigue syndrome ( G93.3 ) is specified as an Exclusion to the Neurotic, stress-related and somatoform disorders (F40-F48) codes.

    So there should be no confusion.

  4. What evidence is that there exists a spectrum of disease? Is MS and cancer now to go on this spectrum, and what about AIDS?

  5. Ian Swales has published an amended website report.

    “Ian Swales, MP amends his report on gov policy on CFS and ME (Three Parliamentary errors)” at:

    The post on my website, above, sets out the corrections and clarifications and includes a copy of Mr Swales’ amended website report.

    It remains to be established what Parliamentary protocol is for the correction of errors within Written Questions published on Hansard.

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