Services for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in Northern Ireland are lagging behind the rest of the UK, according to a new report.
A survey of services for the estimated 250,000 people in the UK with ME — myalgic encephalomyelitis, or CFS, has shown more than a quarter of primary care trusts (PCTs) do not commission specialist secondary care for people with the condition.
Less than a quarter of the trusts said they provided home visits for ME patients who are too disabled to travel. Only 37 PCTs, along with one Scottish, one Welsh and one Northern Irish board said they provided home visits for people with the condition.
The study added that progress in Northern Ireland “lags well behind” and the NHS has not “even grasped the scale or seriousness” of the impact of ME on patients.
The statistics were compiled by the charity Action for ME using Freedom of Information requests to 151 PCTs in England, 14 health boards in Scotland, seven health boards in Wales and five commissioning groups in Northern Ireland.
The illness, classified as a neurological condition, has a range of symptoms including fatigue, malaise, headaches, sleep disturbance, difficulties with concentration and muscle pain. Up to a quarter of patients are so affected that they are unable to leave their homes or beds for prolonged periods which can last years.
The charity's report said there was “gross under-provision” for specialist care for ME or CFS patients throughout the UK.