Upper Bann MLA and Ulster Unionist Party Health spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson has called on the Health Minister Jim Wells to improve services for sufferers of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and Fibromyalgia across Northern Ireland.
Commenting after attending a conference on the conditions which was hosted by the Patient Client Council, Mrs Dobson said: “The everyday lives of so many people are drastically affected by these conditions which leave them feeling exhausted, often leading to long term illness and disability.
“I know through my constituency office and also from a close family member how sufferers of ME and Fibromyalgia often struggle to receive the support and assistance they need through the health service. Diagnosis can be very difficult as symptoms can often appear as other conditions and misdiagnosis for patients is common.
“There has been a long fight by patients with these conditions to get the recognition and treatment they need and deserve and I welcome the Patient and Client Council’s support of the local charities and groups.
“These groups include the influential Newry and Mourne ME/FMS Support Group and the Pain Alliance of Northern Ireland.
“We still have a long way to go in providing services to patients and I have written to the Health Minister to request that the pilot which has been conducted for patients in the Northern Trust area is rolled out for all patients across Northern Ireland.
“This conference enabled us all to hear first-hand from patients, parents and also the clinicians who treat people with these conditions and certainly if there are ever conditions where listening to patients is absolutely crucial it is ME and Fibromyalgia.
“One patient told us that some days it is as if her body is full of cement and her good days are anyone else’s worst days.
“But patients have hope and I believe that with the right support and services in place they can be helped to manage their condition.
“There are still many open questions about these conditions which I hope the pilot will go some way to answering.
“No one could fail to be moved by the extremely emotional and personal stories of misdiagnosis and suffering endured by patients on a daily basis.
“Those suffering from these conditions have my full support and it’s crucial that services are strengthened and a strategic direction is put in place for sufferers as a matter of urgency.”