Bedfordshire ME Support Group has welcomed NHS plans to start a new referral service for ME/CFS – with initial assessment and diagnosis being carried out in specialist Thursday clinics at the Disability Resource Centre in Poynters Road, Dunstable.
The first patients will be seen after the service ‘goes live’ on Wednesday, April 24.
The service will be led by consultant rheumatologist Dr Malcolm Stodell and a principal clinical psychologist, Dr Greg Wood. The multi-disciplinary team – including occupational therapists, a physiotherapist, another psychologist and a dietitian – will offer Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Graded Exercise Therapy and Activity Management as the main services (in line with the NICE Guideline on ME/CFS).
It is hoped that any prescribed ongoing therapy programmes will be offered in settings closer to people’s homes. “It’s my understanding that any therapies will take place near to patients’ homes. People won’t have to go back to the the Disability Resource Centre,” said John Chisholm, co-ordinator of the Bedfordshire ME Support Group.
Dr Chisholm added: “While these treatments are not a cure for CFS/ME, we believe that they can help many patients reduce symptoms and improve their capabilities and quality of life.”
Dr Chisholm said that a new database has been developed to help identify Bedfordshire patients who have seen GPs for CFS-related symptoms but not yet had a proper care plan or access to appropriate treatment. It is thought that there are between 800 and 1,600 people with ME/CFS throughout Bedfordshire, but these figures exclude Luton.
The scheme has been set up as a year-long pilot to see how things pan out.
In a report signed off on 2 April, Diane Meddick (a commissioning lead working for the Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group) and colleague Deb Fox wrote that initial referrals from GPs will be screened by local GP Dr Alex Smallwood.
Once he has decided that “all necessary pre-assessment investigative test results are available to the physician and the MDT”, patients will then be contacted and asked to attend the Disability Resource Centre on a Thursday.