Background: Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), in its most severe clinical presentation, can result in patients becoming housebound and bedbound so unable to access most available specialist services.

This presents particular clinical risks and treatment needs for which the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises specialist medical care and monitoring. The extent of National Health Service (NHS) specialist provision in England for severe CFS/ME is currently unknown.

Objectives:  To establish the current NHS provision for patients with severe CFS/ME in England.

Setting and participants: All 49 English NHS specialist CFS/ME adult services in England, in 2013.

Method: Cross-sectional survey by email questionnaire.

Primary outcome measures: Adherence to NICE guidelines for severe CFS/ME.

Results: All 49 services replied (100%). 33% (16/49) of specialist CFS/ME services provided no service for housebound patients. 55% (27/49) services did treat patients with severe CFS/ME and their interventions followed the NICE guidelines.

The remaining services (12%, 6/49) offered occasional or minimal support where funding allowed. There was one NHS unit providing specialist inpatient CFS/ME provision in England.

Conclusions: Study findings highlight substantial variation in access to specialist care for patients with severe presentation of CFS/ME. Where treatment was provided, this appeared to comply with NICE recommendations for this patient group.

What is the current NHS service provision for patients severely affected by chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis? A national scoping exercise
Clare McDermott et al in BMJ Open vol.4 issue 6 July 2014

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