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NICE guidance on ME legal challenge

11th February 2009

A legal challenge is being launched by two people with ME against what they claim is the “unfair and irrational” approach to their condition by the NHS.

ME patients Kevin Short from Norwich and Douglas Fraser from London have brought a judicial review which is being heard in the High Court.

The basis of their case is that the NHS is wrong to base more emphasis on psychological rather than medical therapies.

However, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has defended its guidance on ME and chronic fatigue syndrome, issued in August 2007.

The condition affects 200,000 people in the UK, though experts remain divided over the best treatments.

NICE recommended cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) but the basis of the legal challenge is that such therapies can actually be harmful to people with ME in particular and more emphasis should be placed on drug treatments.

Their barrister Jeremy Hyam said the men’s views were shared across the ME community.

"Literally thousands of sufferers have communicated their support for this challenge," he said.

The two patients have received the backing of the ME Association.

However, NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon defended the guidance, saying it was "robust" and had been designed to improve care.

"The group considered a range of complex issue in great depth taking full account of the views of patient groups and health professionals."

The hearing is expected to last two days. The NICE guidance will remain in place until the judge gives his verdict.


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