A new report launched to mark the start of M.E. Awareness Week 2005 calls on doctors to speed up the diagnosis of M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and so reduce the number of patients declining into long term ill health and disability. M.E. Diagnosis: Delay Harms Health is backed by an alliance of six national charities frustrated that delays in diagnosis are continuing to impair improvement or recovery in people with M.E.
Two recent website surveys revealed that it took over a year to obtain a diagnosis for 53% of adults and for 45% of children and young people, despite government recommendations in 2002 that M.E. should be diagnosed within 6 months. Without approriate medical advice in the crucial early stages of the illness many will lapse into severe and prolonged ill health. A survey of the most severely affected charity members revealed that more than one third had waited over 18 months for a diagnosis.
Report author Dr Charles Shepherd says:
'Doctors must act early to diagnose patients with M.E. to give them the best chance of regaining their health. Without a diagnosis patients are left in limbo and their symtoms become more severe and long lasting. With the right information and support many people are able to effectively manage their illness, avoiding unnecessary suffering and the knock on problems at home, work and difficulties in obtaining welfare benefits.'
The government has outlined that adults with M.E. should expect a provisional diagnosis as early as possible and that this should be confirmed within six months. In children this figure falls to three months.
In 2004 the government referred M.E. to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence but publication of guidelines on diagnosis and treatment is not expected before 2007. In the intervening period over 50,000 people will develop M.E./CFS and continue to struggle for a diagnosis.