The Department does recognise that ME is a chronic condition


Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2003 11:52:52 +0000
Subject: CFS/ME

Our ref: DE1040799

10 November 2003

Dear L K Seay,

Thank you for your letter of 7 November 2003 to John Reid regarding CFS/ME. He has asked me to reply on his behalf.

The Department does recognise that ME is a chronic condition. In January 2002 the independent Working Group published their report, A report of the CFS/ME Working Group. The report made a number of recommendations to increase understanding of this condition and improve the quality of care and treatment that is available. In particular, it highlighted the need for further research in this area.

Following publication of the report the Department asked theMedical Research Council (MRC) to develop a research strategy. This was published in May and will enable researchers and funders to develop research proposals on all aspects of this illness. The Strategy was developed by an Independent Research Advisory Group set up by the MRC and makes long
and short term recommendations for research that will lead to greater understanding of CFS/ME and advances in patient care.

The strategy focuses on a number of strategic themes: case definition, an epidemiology framework, pathophysiology, interventions, health service research capacity and the value of lay participation. This strategy was developed in response to a request from the Chief Medical Officer for England for the MRC to develop a research strategy.

The MRC announced funding in May 2003 for two trials which would look at the effectiveness of various treatments for CFS/ME.  These trials were in the MRC review system before the announcement of CFS/ME research strategy. The results of these trials will help patients and their doctors to choose the best treatment.

These complimentary trials will assess a variety of treatments and in doing so will both help address important issues for those with CFS/ME .

I assume in talking the classification of CFS/ME you are referring to the WHO guide. We are confident that proper consultation has taken place with respect to revisions being undertaken for the second edition of the WHO primary care guideline. This guide was initially published in 1996 by the WHO CC. It is based on the WHO Diagnostic and management Guidelines for Mental Disorders in Primary Care and is compatible with ICD-10 (the classification system used in the UK for mental disorders). It gives guidance on diagnosis and on treatment strategies for primary care.

The evidence base for recommendations are set out alongside information gathered from clinicians and professionals about best practice. Specific comments on the detailed text should be addressed to the WHO Collaborating Centre which is based at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF.

We are not in a position to comment on the points you raised in regard to Action for ME or the ME Association. They are independent organisations and responsible for managing their own affairs.

I hope you will agree, however, that the announcements about funding and research show that the government is determined to improve services for patients with CFS/ME.

Yours faithfully

Robert Harkins