Northern Ireland Assembly questions: available support and prevalence, 8 July 2011

July 15, 2011

In a written question, Dominic Bradley (MLA, Newry and Armagh) asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety what support is available to people diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis.

In his written answer on 8 July 2011, the Minister, Edwin Poots, replied:

The variability of symptoms in patients with ME means that they will need to access different parts of the health service, depending on their specific symptoms and the severity of their condition. The focus on treatment is therefore centred on close co-operation between patients, carers and the relevant health and social care professionals, which is essential to ensure that sufferers obtain the most suitable treatment for their particular needs.

People suffering from ME in Northern Ireland have access to a wide range of treatment and support services in secondary, primary and community care settings, including neurology services and mental health services. In addition patients may be referred for assessment and treatment to a variety of specialists depending on their assessed individual needs.

In addition, my Department, in collaboration with the HSC Board, the Public Health Agency, Trusts and patient representatives groups, established a stakeholder group, to examine how access to the services required by ME sufferers might be improved. A number of meetings of this group have taken place and it was agreed that the issues being raised by the stakeholders were best handled in the context of service commissioning. The HSC Board advises that the relevant commissioning service team has now been asked to consider how best to engage with ME stakeholders and report to my Department on progress.

Mr Bradley also asked the Minister for details of the current prevalence of ME in the province.

The Minister replied:

Information regarding the prevalence of myalgic encephalomyelitisis is not available.

Information is however available on the number of inpatient and day case admissions to hospitals with a diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitisis during 2009/10, as shown in the table below.

HSC Provider Number of Admissions
Belfast 48
Northern 5
South Eastern 11
Southern 10
Western 10
Northern Ireland Total 84

Source: Hospital Inpatients System.

It should be noted that any individual could have been admitted to hospital more than once during any given time period and would therefore be counted more than once in the above figures.

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