Medical Matters > Classification: Neurological Disease

ME Essential Spring 2018

Question

Having weighed up all the pros and cons of having a flu jab this winter I decided to go ahead and have one. However, my GP would not accept that ME is a neurological disease. So I had to pay for my jab. I know that the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies ME (along with post viral fatigue syndrome and CFS) as a neurological disease. But does the Department of Health accept this classification? If so, surely people with ME should be able to have a free flu jab – along with all the other help and eligibility for DWP benefits etc that should come from having a disabling neurological disease.

Answer

The UK Government has made it very clear on several occasions through answers to parliamentary questions that it accepts the World Health Organisation's classification of ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) as being a neurological disease. A fairly standard answer is included below.

This should mean that people with ME (and CFS and Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS)) are able to obtain practical and social services support and welfare benefits that are normally linked to having a chronic neurological disease. Sadly, this is not always the case because many health professionals, including a significant proportion of neurologists, and insurance companies in relation to income support policies, still do not accept that ME/CFS is a neurological disease – despite clear and repeated statements from government ministers.

Finally, as is made clear in the ME Association information leaflet on flu vaccine, we believe that people with ME/CFS should be able to have a free flu vaccine on the NHS – if they choose to do so.

Parliamentary question: (WHO classification of CFS, 11th February 2013) Crispin Blunt (Conservative MP for Reigate) asked the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the World Health Organisation’s classification of chronic fatigue syndrome as a neurological disease; and if he will make a statement.

In a written answer provided on 11th February 2013, the Minister for Care Services, Norman Lamb (Lib Dem,) replied:

“The World Health Organization International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) classifies chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ ME) under neurological disorders at Reference 93.3 and uses the terms post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVS) and benign myalgic encephalomyelitis. The Department accepts this classification and recognises CFS/ME as a neurological condition of unknown origin. As the symptoms of CFS/ ME resemble those of other forms of debilitating illness, we acknowledge that it is not easy to diagnose single cases of the condition. Clinicians are responsible, within their area of competence, for diagnosing medical conditions and it is not the Department’s policy to advise the medical profession on clinical practice.”

More information

  • The ME Association has produced an extensive range of literature about ME/CFS that can be downloaded from the website shop. Relating to this topic:
    • Disability Classification & Illness Severity: We examine illness severity, explain how ME/CFS is officially recognised as a neurological disease and disability, and provide a useful disability rating scale that can help you explain your disability to others.
    • Prognosis, Permanency & Quality of Life: We consider what to expect from a diagnosis of ME/CFS in terms of disability, improvement, recovery, and quality of life, based on research evidence and expert medical opinion.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER

Medical Matters is for information purposes only. The answers provided by Dr Shepherd and the ME Association’s other expert advisers should not be construed as medical advice. We recommend that any information you deem relevant is discussed with your GP as soon as possible. It is important to obtain advice from a GP who is in charge of your clinical care, who knows you well, and who can consider other likely causes for symptoms. Seek personalised medical advice whenever a new symptom arises, or an existing symptom worsens. Don't assume that new or worsened symptoms are a result of having ME/CFS.

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