Medical school education on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, by Nina Muirhead, John Muirhead, Grace Lavery and Ben Marsh in Medicina 2021, 57(6), 542; [] 28 May 2021 (This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS: Causes, Clinical Features and Diagnosis)


Research abstract:

Background and objectives:

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a complex multi-system disease with a significant impact on the quality of life of patients and their families, yet the majority of ME/CFS patients go unrecognised or undiagnosed.

For two decades, the medical education establishment in the UK has been challenged to remedy these failings, but little has changed. Meanwhile, there has been an exponential increase in biomedical research and an international paradigm shift in the literature, which defines ME/CFS as a multisystem disease, replacing the psychogenic narrative. This study was designed to explore the current UK medical school education on ME/CFS and to identify challenges and opportunities relating to future ME/CFS medical education.

Materials and methods:

A questionnaire, developed under the guidance of the Medical Schools Council, was sent to all 34 UK medical schools to collect data for the academic year 2018–2019.


Responses were provided by 22 out of a total of 34 medical schools (65%); of these 13/22 (59%) taught ME/CFS, and teaching was led by lecturers from ten medical specialties. Teaching delivery was usually by lecture; discussion, case studies and e-learning were also used. Questions on ME/CFS were included by seven schools in their examinations and three schools reported likely clinical exposure to ME/CFS patients.

Two-thirds of respondents were interested in receiving further teaching aids in ME/CFS. None of the schools shared details of their teaching syllabus, so it was not possible to ascertain what the students were being taught.


This exploratory study reveals inadequacies in medical school teaching on ME/CFS. Many medical schools (64% of respondents) acknowledge the need to update ME/CFS education by expressing an appetite for further educational materials. The General Medical Council (GMC) and Medical Schools Council (MSC) are called upon to use their considerable influence to bring about the appropriate changes to medical school curricula so future doctors can recognise, diagnose and treat ME/CFS. The GMC is urged to consider creating a registered specialty encompassing ME/CFS, post-viral fatigue and long Covid.


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