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‘Dismissive attitudes’ towards ME must improve, say DofH, as it launches new plan to overhaul care

NHS healthcare professionals are to get more training to improve the treatment of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), as part of a new government strategy.

The Department of Health’s interim plan, writes The Times, will see medical students, nurses and doctors receive training on improving attitudes towards patients presenting with symptoms of ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

It will encourage more research on the illness, acknowledging that access to a diagnosis and treatment currently isn’t efficient. The announcement post asked patients, researchers and doctors to fill in a survey to help finalise the strategy – and shared personal experiences of those affected.

More than 240,000 people in England are affected by the condition, which can present in patients as gastro problems, dizziness, fatigue and sleep issues – and renders a quarter of those affected house-bound.

The document reports that many patients feel unheard within the NHS, saying: “Many people with ME/CFS report experiences of dismissive attitudes towards them from some professionals and feel stigmatised.”

In 2021, treatment guidelines asked hospitals to create personalised plans for patients, but the new report suggests that many hospitals are currently not offering bespoke treatment strategies for those with ME.

Health minister Will Quince said: “My heart goes out to anyone impacted by ME/CFS. This condition affects a significant number of children and adults across the country, yet we still don’t know enough about its causes.”

He added: “This government is listening. Together, we can work to improve the lives of those who live with ME/CFS, and set out a bold vision for a future in which those impacted feel understood and supported by healthcare services and society as a whole.”

Action for ME chief executive Sonya Chowdhury praised the announcement of the strategy, saying it was a “significant step forward in driving improvements in support, care, and research for individuals living with ME/CFS.

“Recent research highlighting long Covid and ME symptoms only emphasises the urgency of the situation . . . around 50 per cent of people with long Covid have symptoms that directly mirror ME.”

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