Real People, Real Lives, Real Symptoms
CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS/ME) is a poorly understood debilitating chronic illness that results in a complex set of symptoms that are unexplained by standard scientific tests. There is also no simple treatment that works for all people with the condition. Currently there is no international consensus of opinion regarding criteria for diagnosis. The illness includes a wide varying spectrum of symptoms and levels of debility and even with the most evidence based treatments not all people can recover from the condition. There is therefore a lot of controversy around the diagnosis. Many people, including a variety of healthcare professionals, choose to ignore the condition rather than acknowledge and treat it. Paradoxically, it is clear that earlier diagnosis is beneficial and more likely to result in treatment response.
Furthermore for the individual sufferer, being told that there is nothing wrong, when you are experiencing overwhelming fatigue, is devastating and can lead to social isolation, depression and breakdown.
The NHS strategy has addressed and recognised this condition and has included the introduction of NICE guidelines and commissioning for limited treatment services.
I have worked proudly as a doctor in the NHS continuously for 25 years and continue to do so. I am more than aware that this institution helps many people. However this flagship for modern healthcare (the NHS), which is free at the point of entry, suggesting equality, is failing a hidden society; those people with CFS. And the issue is not unique to CFS, other vulnerable members of society have also been subjected to inequality of healthcare provision in recent years.
All the leaders within the NHS recognise that healthcare culture needs to encompass equality as well as safety and excellent patient centred care.
For people with CFS we need to change the culture in order to make progress in treating this condition successfully and improving patient outcomes.