Dorset ME Support Group launch their new website

From the Bournemouth Echo, 15 February 2012

A DOCTOR who had to retire as a GP after developing ME has praised students for donating funds to help support hundreds of his fellow sufferers in Dorset.

Bournemouth University’s RAG (Raising and Giving society) raised £3,134 for the Dorset ME Support Group last year. That money has now been used to create a website, launched at the university this week.

As many sufferers have difficulty with bright lights and colours, it has been designed in muted shades. The site provides information on events and research and a forum for the 600 members of the group who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome or ME.

Former Swanage GP Dr William Tudor-Thomas, who chairs the support group, said: “I felt overwhelmed by the amount of money raised and knew that we could use it to create this website. Then it occurred to me that we should launch it using the very people whose fundraising had given us the chance to fulfil the project.

“ME is still a very misunderstood illness and a lot of our members feel very isolated. I firmly believe that this is going to be an amazing thing for them to be able to use. This allows them to lie in bed and type at 1am because they can’t sleep. I think it’s a lifeline.”

Dr Tudor-Thomas admitted that he had never heard of ME before becoming ill himself at the age of 41.

“I woke up with an acute viral illness and have never been the same since,” he said.

“I have been very sad that the medical profession remain as sceptical about it as it has. Just because you don’t have a diagnostic test doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge someone is ill.”

Despite his own illness, after retiring in 1996, he went on to help set up the trailblazing NHS service for CFS/ME at Wareham Hospital in the late 1990s and took over as chairman of the support group three years ago.

“People can get better with good management. We are getting up to 80 per cent improvement in the quality of life of patients going to the hospital. The first thing they get is someone looks them in the eye and says: ‘I believe you’.”

Despite the chief medical officer’s announcement that CFS/ME was to be recognised as a chronic neurological condition, Dr Tudor-Thomas said many GPs remained sceptical and sufferers commonly experienced problems with benefits payments. A full-time benefits adviser recouped £875,000 for members of the support group in the last financial year.

Guests at the launch included Mid Dorset and North Poole MP Annette Brooke, who chairs the all-party Parliamentary group on CFS/ME, and Michelle Selby, chair of the British Association for CFS/ME and senior occupational therapist at the Wareham service.

The new website can be found at dorsetmesupport.org.uk

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