Royal College reaffirms belief that ME/CFS is a biological illness

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has reaffirmed its belief that ME/CFS is a biological illness and disowned a statement made to the recent mini-review of the NICE Guideline on ME/CFS that it is “a psychological illness with physical manifestations” with clinical experience suggesting that the incidence “appears to be falling in children and young people”.

In a letter sent to the Countess of Mar on 21 April, Cambridgeshire paediatrician Dr David Vickers – a member of the Royal College’s ‘President’s Advisory Group’ – wrote:

“I have reviewed our submission to the NICE consultation and can confirm this comment was from one individual who assisted in our response. As such it does not represent RCPCH policy, and in retrospect should not have been included. The phrase ‘as a psychological illness with physical manifestations’ was unhelpful.”

Lady Mar, who chairs the Forward ME Group of ME charities and patient support groups, gave permission for the letter to be released today after she had raised the issue with Care Services Minister Paul Burstow and Mary-Jane Willows, chief executive of the Association for Young People with ME, had raised it directly with the Royal College.

Full text of the letter from Dr Vickers to the Countess:

21 April 2011

Dear Lady Mar

The Chief Executive of AYME has forwarded us a copy of your letter of 5 April 2011 to Paul Burstow in which you express concern about the RCPCH response to NICE on their consultation on possible revisiom of guidelines on CFSME. In our response we stated that “Regarding the epidemiology of chronic fatigue syndrome: as a psychological illness with physical manifestations, clinical experience suggests that the incidence appears to be falling in children and young people.

As our President stated in his latter dated 25 February 2011, RCPCH views CFSME as a biological illness and continues to stand by its own guidelines issued in 2004. I have reviewed our submission to the NICE consultation and can confirm this comment was from one individual who assisted in our response. As such it does not represent RCPCH policy, and in retrospect should not have been included. The phrase “as a psychological illness with physical manifestations” was unhelpful.

My prime reason for writing is to reassure you RCPCH continues to view this condition as a biological illness, which benefits from expert multidisciplinary management.

I am aware that these comments have caused some concern, and hope that this letter reassures you that our position has not altered.

Yours sincerely

Dr David Vickers

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health was one of a couple of dozen organisations who made brief representations when NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) invited them to comment last November on whether there was a need for a a major review of their August 2007 Guideline on ME/CFS.

The comments were published in summary form by NICE and this document can be viewed HERE.

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