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ME CFS in Scotland

Thursday, 31 December 2009




1 Introduction 4

2 Clinical presentation 6
Criteria 6
Symptoms and signs 8

3 Clinicai assessment and diagnosis 10
General guidance 10
Children and young people 12
Adults and children who are more severely affected 14

4 Symptom management 16
General principles 16
Pharmacological treatments 18
Pain relief 18
Sleep disturbance 18
Headache 19
Abdominal symptoms 19
Disorders of balance 19
Effects on mood 19
Other pharmacological treatments 19
Non-pharmacological management 21
Energy management 22
Counselling 22

5 Research 24

6 Support for patients 26
Welfare benefits 26
Social care 27
Emotional support 27

7 Appendices
Appendix 1: Useful resources and contacts (self help and support groups) 28
Appendix 2: Response to exercise (comparing healthy people with ME-CFS patients) 31
Appendix 3: Severity rating guide 32
Appendix 4: Sleep and pain profile 34
8 References and acknowledgements 36



"ME was known to run a chronic course and patients had disabilities due to persistent symptoms
of pain, fatigue and loss of endurance to norma! physical activities with conspicuous deterioration
of symptoms after exercise (post exertional malaise)." Scottish Short Life Working Group1
The purpose of this Scottish Good Practice Statement on ME-CFS is to provide general
practitioners with a simple, straightforward document that can be easily used in the consulting
It is hoped that this will be the first in a series which will inform health professionals on the
management of ME-CFS until there is the research evidence available to qualify for a guideline by
the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN). It is a living document and will be revised
as research reports are published which will influence clinical practice.
In parallel with this Statement of Good Practice the Scottish Public Health Network has undertaken
a Needs Assessment on ME-CFS which will help inform the NHS in Scotland on future service
design and provision for people with ME-CFS.
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Encephalopathy (M.E.) is a chronic, fluctuating illness,
often referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and sometimes as Post Viral
Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS).
It causes significant ill health and disability in a substantial number of adults, young people and
children2. It can affect anyone, at any age, from any ethnic group. Epidemiological evidence for
Scotland is lacking but a population prevalence of at least 0.2% - 0.4% is widely accepted3, and
over 20,000 people in Scotland may be affected4. It has characteristic features which are highly
variable among patients. It is also highly variable in its duration and severity.
At present diagnosis is made from recognising symptom patterns. There is currently no
definitive test available on the NHS to confirm the diagnosis.
ME/PVFS is classified as a neurological illness by the World Health Organisation (WHO)
(ICD 10 at 93.3) and both the UK and Scottish Governments follow the classifications
set out in ICD 10. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a non-specific term encompassing people
suffering from various syndromes of chronic fatigue.
National and international debate is ongoing as to appropriate terminology but for the purposes of
this Statement we will use the composite ME-CFS, the term recommended by the Scottish Public
Health Network in the Scottish Needs Assessment (2009).
The NHS has recognised that the symptoms of ME/PVFS are real and of a physical
nature. They can be as disabling, for example, as multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosis,
rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure and other chronic conditions and the illness places a
substantial burden on people with the condition, their families and carers, and on society5.
Prognosis is extremely variable. Most patients have a fluctuating course of illness,
some with relapses while others do not experience remission.
Health and functioning rarely return completely to the individual's previous levels6; most of those
who feel recovered stabilise at a level of functioning lower than they had before the illness.
Overall, there is a wide variation in duration of illness, with some people recovering, or improving
significantly, in less than two years, while others remain ill for several decades. Any recovery is not
necessarily permanent and relapses can still occur7.


ME-CFS causes a range of symptoms and it is necessary to adopt an holistic approach
to symptom control and care. Holistic is used here in its fuller sense, ie. as having regard not
only for the illness and its treatment but also for the impact of the illness on the patient, their
carers, family and on work and social life8.
Empathetic listening is vital as with all chronic illnesses. Mutual respect and shared
decision-making between the person with ME-CFS and healthcare professionals is
essential during diagnosis and all phases of care9.
Healthcare professionals should remember that - like all people receiving care in the NHS - people
with ME-CFS have the right to refuse or withdraw from any component of their care plan without
this affecting other aspects of their care, or future choices about care10.
All efforts should be made to investigate the patient's symptoms, particularly if there
are changes in presentation, as one would with any chronic illness.
During the very early stages, especially in acute onset, post infection, the clinical presentation is
likely to involve symptoms such as hypersomnia and severe post infection fatigue. These may
change in severity or nature as time goes on and consequently require a differing approach to
certain aspects of management especially activity and sleep disturbance.
There is also a need for early and accurate diagnosis where possible, with
consideration of making the provisional diagnosis by three to four months into the
It is important to actively consider ME-CFS as a diagnosis in patients presenting with
these symptoms. It focuses relevant investigation and allows symptom and energy management
to begin. GPs should be able to alleviate symptoms in most patients with ME-CFS, as with many
other chronic conditions. Shared care with specialists, for diagnosis or development of a
management plan, will help with problems that are complex, severe or prolonged.
At present the diagnosis of ME-CFS remains clinical, based primarily on symptom recognition,
much as Parkinson's disease was in the past, before the development of specific investigations. As
the research base develops, it is expected that in time specific investigations will be available to
positively support diagnosis. It is vitally important that Scotland has a mechanism for bringing
together researchers, practising clinicians and people with ME-CFS to drive the research agenda.
This will in turn lead to improved clinical practice in the NHS.
Please note: At present there are investigations, medications and management strategies available
privately eg. mitochondrial testing (see p 25).


Clinical presentation

"The normal fatigue/pain pattern directly related to felt causal action and adjusted by activity/rest
rhythms is broken in ME-CFS. As a result there are cumulative physical and cognitive fatigue/pain
and 'crashing' patterns." Canadian Consensus Document11
Precipitative factors
Some form of infection, typically but not always viral, is a common precipitating factor eg. flu-like
illness, glandular fever, viral hepatitis (particularly hepatitus C), enteroviruses, meningitis or
encephalitis, labyrinthitis, herpes viruses including cytomegalovirus and herpes zoster and
parvovirus B19. In the region of one in ten to one in eight people may be affected by ME-CFS after
contracting the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). Other infections such as Coxiella Burnetii/Q fever and
bacterial meningitis can also precipitate ME-CFS. Patients commonly describe themselves as never
having fully recovered from the infection.
The role of trauma, surgery, certain vaccinations, toxins, pesticide exposure and/or stressful major
events as triggers is possible, but less well established. In a minority of cases, the onset can be
more insidious with no identifiable precipitating factor, and here the diagnosis can be harder to
make in the early stages.
For most adults, six weeks from the onset of abnormal fatigue and other recognised symptoms is a
time to be considering ME-CFS as a differential working diagnosis. By six months, if symptoms
persist, a provisional diagnosis can usually be confirmed. The National Institute for Health and
Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the Canadian Consensus Document (CCD)12 suggest these
timescales are shortened to three months for children. Further guidance on children and young
people is presented on p 12.
No one set of criteria for the diagnosis of ME-CFS has been universally agreed. Most criteria have
been developed for research purposes.
The Scottish Public Health Needs Assessment document recommends the use of the CCD for the
diagnosis of ME and the NICE guideline for the diagnosis of CFS.
The CCD says patients with ME will meet the criteria for fatigue, post-exertional malaise and/or
fatigue, sleep dysfunction, and pain; have two or more neurological/cognitive manifestations and
one or more symptoms from two of the categories of autonomic, neuroendocrine and immune
manifestations; and adhere to item 7 below.
1. Fatigue: the patient must have a significant degree of new onset, unexplained, persistent, or
recurrent physical and mental fatigue that substantially reduces activity level.
2. Post-exertional malaise and/or fatigue: there is an inappropriate loss of physical and
mental stamina, rapid muscular and cognitive fatigability, post exertional malaise and/or
fatigue and/or pain and a tendency for other associated symptoms within the patient's cluster
of symptoms to worsen. There is a pathologically slow recovery period - usually 24 hours or
3. Sleep dysfunction: there is unrefreshed sleep or sleep quantity or rhythm disturbances
such as reversed or chaotic diurnal sleep rhythms.
4. Pain: there is a significant degree of myalgia. Pain can be experienced in the muscles and/or
joints and is often widespread and migratory in nature. Often there are significant headaches
of new type, pattern or severity.


5. Neurological/cognitive manifestations: two or more of the following difficulties should
be present: confusion, impairment of concentration and short-term memory consolidation,
disorientation, difficulty with information processing, categorising and word retrieval, and
perceptual and sensory disturbances - eg. spatial instability and disorientation and inability to
focus vision.
Ataxia, muscle weakness and fasciculations are common. There may be overload
phenomena: cognitive, sensory - eg. photophobia and hypersensitivity to noise - and/or
emotional overload, which may lead to 'crash' periods and/or anxiety.
6. At least one symptom from two of the following categories:
a. Autonomic manifestations: orthostatic intolerance - neurally mediated hypotension
(NMH), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), delayed postural hypotension;
light-headedness; extreme pallor; nausea and irritable bowel syndrome; urinary frequency
and bladder dysfunction; palpitations with or without cardiac arrhythmias; exertional
b. Neuroendocrine manifestations: loss of thermostatic stability - subnormal body
temperature and marked diurnal fluctuation, sweating episodes, recurrent feelings of
feverishness and cold extremities; intolerance of extremes of heat and cold; marked
weight change - anorexia or abnormal appetite; loss of adaptability and worsening of
symptoms with stress.
c. Immune manifestations: tender lymph nodes, recurrent sore throat, recurrent flulike
symptoms, general malaise, new sensitivities to food, medications and/or chemicals.
7. The illness persists for at least six months: It usually has a distinct onset, although it may be
gradual. Preliminary diagnosis may be possible earlier. Three months is appropriate for
• The symptoms must have begun or have been significantly altered after the onset of this
• It is unlikely that a patient will suffer from all symptoms in 5 and 6.
• The disturbances tend to form symptom clusters that may fluctuate and change over time.
• Children often have numerous prominent symptoms but their order of severity tends to
vary from day to day.
• There is a small number of patients who have no pain or sleep dysfunction, but no other
diagnosis fits except ME-CFS.
• A diagnosis of ME-CFS can be entertained when this group has an infectious illness type
• Some patients have been unhealthy for other reasons prior to the onset of ME-CFS and
lack detectable triggers at onset or have more gradual or insidious onset.
An overview of the CCD can be downloaded from:
The NICE clinical guideline 53, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (or
encephalopathy): Diagnosis and management in adults and children, (published 2007) may be
downloaded from:*
*The current advice from NHS Quality Improvement Scotland on NICE guidelines is that these have no formal status in
Scotland, as SIGN has responsibility to produce clinical guidelines for NHS Scotland. Guidelines help healthcare professionals
in their work, but they do not replace their knowledge and skills.


Symptoms and signs

Making a firm, or provisional, diagnosis of ME-CFS is an essential first step in active
symptom management.
It removes uncertainty, reduces anxiety and provides an explanatory model that justifies
appropriate changes in a person's lifestyle and expectations. The diagnosis is based on pattern
recognition of a range of recognised symptoms and on how they relate to activity.
It is important to separate the primary symptoms of the illness from the secondary symptoms such
as anxiety or depression which can occur with severe chronic illness. Although there is as yet no
validated diagnostic test available on the NHS, a diagnosis of ME-CFS can and should be a positive
diagnosis, with other conditions excluded as appropriate.
ME-CFS is characterised in many patients by severe, disabling physical and mental fatigue, both of
which are exacerbated by relatively minor amounts of exertion. The fatigue is accompanied by
post-exertional malaise whereby there is a delayed impact so that coexisting symptoms are worse
following activity any time from a few hours later to days later.
The way in which fatigue is described in ME-CFS is very different to normal everyday tiredness.
(The MS Society's observation that: "Some people say that their power plug has suddenly been
pulled out," is one that ME patients would recognise.) However, fatigue may not be the patient’s
worst symptom.
Rating scale
When a patient presents to a GP with symptoms consistent with ME-CFS it is valuable to ask the
patient to fill out a rating scale (see p 32). Severely affected patients may require help and support
from a clinician in carrying this out. The completed rating scale, as well as aiding diagnosis, will
guide the symptom management plan.
Key symptoms:
• Activity-induced muscle fatigue.
• Post-exertional malaise (see p 31).
• Cognitive dysfunction: problems with short-term memory, concentration and memory
• 'Brain fog' which affects the ability to read, think, process information and understand the
simplest of language. Patients experience problems with short-term memory. Cognitive
difficulties are more pronounced when the person is dealing with complex issues. Spatial
awareness can also be greatly affected.
• Pain is present in the majority of patients and is often persistent and difficult to control.
Pain is often muscular but can also be rheumatic, neuropathic or fibromyalgic.
• Muscle weakness and muscle fascicuiations.
• Sleep disturbance eg. insomnia, early morning wakening, unrefreshing sleep, disturbed
sleep/wake cycle.
• A general feeling of ongoing malaise.
• Orthostatic intolerance which can present as 'funny turns,' faints or feeling dizzy even
when standing for short periods.
The adverse effect of exercise should be noted particularly on the cardiovascular system including
decreased cerebral blood flow (see p 31).


Other symptoms to look for:
• Disequilibrium
• Autonomic dysfunction
• Disturbed thermoregulation, night sweats and heat sensitivity
• Sensory disturbances
• Hyperacusis
• Headaches of new onset, type, pattern or severity
• Arthralgia but not including swelling, redness or joint deformity
• Irritable bowel-type symptoms (eg. nausea, loss of appetite, indigestion, excessive wind,
bloating, abdominal cramps, alternating diarrhoea and constipation, food intolerance)
• Alcohol intolerance, drug and chemical sensitivities
• Eye problems (photophobia, nystagmus, blurred vision, difficulty focussing and dry eyes).
Clinical signs
• Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
• Recurrent sore throats, including faucial injection
• Tender cervical and/or axillary lymph nodes
• Elevation of radial pulse rate to 20% above normal when patient stands up
• Positive Romberg's sign
• Hypersensitivity to vibration
• Abnormal tandem gait
• Abnormal fatiguing on serial 7 subtraction.
Referral for specialist assessment
At present services throughout Scotland are not uniform. GPs may not have a designated
consultant to refer patients to. It would be appropriate for GPs to refer patients to consultants
with expertise of the clinical symptoms that dominate in a particular patient eg. cardiovascular
assessment for patients with predominantly cardiovascular symptoms and neurological assessment
for patients with predominantly neurological symptoms.


Clinical assessment and diagnosis

"As the primary diagnostician, the GP should be aware of the range of illnesses that require to be
assessed before a diagnosis can be made." Editorial on the CCD13
As the crucial tool in diagnosis is the clinical history, sufficient time should be allowed for patients
to give a narrative account of their illness experience. At present there is no confirmatory test
available on the NHS.
Fatigue is a symptom of many conditions, therefore investigation should be geared to
making a positive diagnosis and to exclude other illnesses.
The following tests should be undertaken for evaluation and to exclude other conditions; additional
tests may be needed to further evaluate specific symptoms or features:
• Full blood count
• C-reactive protein <CRP)
• Blood biochemistry including creatinine, urea and electrolytes, calcium, liver enzymes and
• Thyroid function tests
• Serum creatine kinase
• Blood pressure in upright and supine positions
• ECG (in adults)
• Epworth sleepiness score14.
Depending on the results of the initial tests and the patient's progress and if symptoms suggest
that any of the following are likely, appropriate investigations or specialist referral should be
carried out:
• Adrenal insufficiency • Organic pain disease
• Anaemia • Primary sleep disorder
• Coeliac disease • Rheumatic diseases
• Hepatitis serology • Somatisation disorder
• Immunodeficiency • Thyroid disease
• Malignancy • Heavy metal poisoning
• Multiple sclerosis • Mood disorders
• Identifiable chronic infection • Myasthenia gravis,
(particularly Lyme Disease)


Dependent on clinical presentation and symptoms, examples of further tests on patients could
• Chest x-ray
• Rheumatology and autoantibody screen
• Tissue transglutaminase antibody for coeliac disease
• Serum B12
• Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D
• Serum oestradiol and FSH
• Serum prolactin and neuroradiology investigations
• Lyme serology
• Infectious disease screen if there is any possibility of chlamydia, hepatitis
B/C, HIV, mycoplasma, Q fever etc.
Dependent on the results of these investigations, referral to a specialist for elucidation of diagnosis
would be appropriate at this point.
The following tests have been used in research studies and clinical assessment:
• Autonomic function tests
• Infectious disease screen
• MRI scan of the head
• Muscle biopsy
• Fat biopsy test for volatile organic compounds, particularly for those patients exposed to
organophoshates, pesticides etc
• Short synacthen (ACTH test)
• Gastric biopsy
• Tilt-table testing*
• SPECT scans.
Please see Professor Newton's paper, p 24. Patients presenting with symptoms consistent with
POTS should be referred for tilt table testing.
Investigations not available on the NHS include mitochondrial testing (see p 25)
Monitoring course and assessing severity
The severity of specific symptoms will vary from patient to patient and for an individual patient
over time As part of the ongoing evaluation of the clinical course the practitioner may find it helpful
to periodically assess the relative severity and impact of a patient's symptoms using the rating
scale set out on p 32


Children and young people

"A significant problem in the literature is the lack of both a pediatric definition of ME-CFS and a
reliable instrument to assess it." Leonard A. Jason15
It is recognised that the diagnosis and management of ME-CFS in children and young people is an
area which needs to be developed in a specific Good Practice Statement. However, the following is
intended to provide guidance in the interim.
Children can be as profoundly affected by ME-CFS as adults. Symptoms may have similar severity
to adults but the fluctuation in severity can be much more dramatic. Severe exhaustion, weakness,
pain and mood changes make life very challenging for children (as well as adults) with ME-CFS.
The limited evidence available suggests that young people with ME-CFS are more likely to recover
than adults.
Studies with extended follow up show 60-80% partial or complete recovery with an average
duration of illness of 37.5 - 49 months, with about 20% of cases remaining incapacitated , some
for many years17.
The principles of care in children and young people are common to many chronic conditions. Most
of the issues covered for adults also apply to children. Some need different emphasis.
This can impact upon a child's development and affect family life adversely It is therefore crucial
that the child and their parent/guardian are listened to.
Speedy diagnosis is important to allay fears of other serious illness eg. leukaemia, to protect the
patient from undue pressure and to allow symptom control and appropriate management to begin.
This should prevent further deterioration in many, but not all, cases. Management should be
geared to the condition of the child and agreed with the parents/carers.
Differentiation from school phobia
In one UK study 51 % of pupils with long-term school absenteeism suffered from ME-CFS13.
However, unlike school phobia, pupils with ME-CFS spend most of their time incapacitated or
having to rest19 They tend to do worse in mathematics and analytical subjects such as science.
They are often classified as having school phobia20. Severely affected young people may be
bedbound and the impact on the other members of the family, particularly other vulnerable
children and adults, should be recognised.
Clinical presentation in children
The CCD says- "Children can be diagnosed with ME-CFS if symptoms last more than three months
They tend to have numerous symptoms of similar overall severity but their hierarchy of symptom
severity may vary from day to day. Severe, generalised pain is a common feature. Children may
become dyslexic, tearful, physically weak and exhibit exhaustion or profound mood changes."
• Loss of energy/fatigue
The loss of energy and weakness may be so profound as to make the child bedbound.
Post-exertional fatigue and weakness will affect the ability of the child to undertake
exercise or sport. The severity of symptoms will affect the ability of the child to attend
• Cognitive problems
Slowing of thought processes - work involving abstract thought is difficult to perform in all
cases. Even if the child usually starts a task well a rapid deterioration in cognitive abilities
often takes place, which may be accompanied by exacerbations of other symptoms.
Impairment of short term memory - poor retention and recall eg. lack of recollection of
magazine articles read only a few minutes previously.


Cognitive abilities deteriorate particularly in topics requiring analysis, multi-task activities,
fast-paced and confusing environments and with physical, mental and emotional fatigue21.
• Disordered sleep pattern
• Weight loss
There are reports that this can be significant in the early stages. Shepherd and Chaudhuri22
recommend that height and weight charts be maintained in all paediatric cases of ME-CFS
where laboratory tests may not be possible.
• Gastro-intestinal disorders
Children may be diagnosed with ME-CFS when symptoms have lasted for more than three
months. A working diagnosis can be given after a much shorter time.
Care needs
A child can be so profoundly affected that the family may require practical help and support. This
may take the form of aids prescribed by a community OT. Care packages may need to be drawn
up for those more severely affected.
GPs would consider this an area of specialist expertise and refer these patients to the paediatric
service. Referral to a community OT could also be valuable - and would contribute to the specialist
assessment. It could be useful in more severely affected cases where there are muscle problems
and problems with mobility. Again, there may be a need for appropriate training in ME-CFS for
relevant staff.
As a result of physical and mental activity levels being reduced, pupils have difficulty at school or
are unable to maintain a full school programme. The school may require a supportive letter from
the pupil's doctors (GP and/or paediatrician) outlining the patient's medical condition and the
limitations this imposes, and advising on accommodations the school can make to take account of
the impact of the illness on the child. Good and open communication between the school and the
pupil's doctors is helpful.
For those not able to attend, schools have a responsibility to provide home tuition. Arrangements
should be responsive to the child's condition and take advantage of times when the child has more
energy. Children attending school may not be able to undertake a full day and appropriate rest
breaks in appropriate facilities should be organised.
Children in Scotland runs Enquire, a telephone helpline for advice on educational support needs.
Tel: 0845 123 2303. E-mail:
Child protection issues
There have been concerns that misunderstanding and lack of information about ME-CFS in
education and social services has led to inappropriate initiation of child protection procedures23.
There are reports of child protection procedures being initiated because of disagreements between
families and health and education professionals over treatment plans.
The report of the Working Group on ME-CFS to the UK's Chief Medical Officer (2002), said:
"Neither the fact of a child or young person having unexplained symptoms nor the exercising of
selective choice about treatment or education for such a child constitutes evidence of abuse."
As noted elsewhere in this document, much controversy remains over the place of graded exercise
and CBT in the management of this condition.


Adults and children who are more severely affected

"Estimates suggest that up to 25% of people with CF5/ME are so seriously affected that they are
unable to perform most basic personal tasks and are confined to bed or spend the majority of the
day in bed." Working Group Report, 200224
it is recognised that the diagnosis and management of severe ME is an area which needs to be
developed in a specific Good Practice Statement. However, the following is intended to provide
guidance in the interim.
No definitive studies have been carried out in the UK to determine the prevalence of severe MECFS.
Estimates range from 10% to 25%25 of those affected.
At some stage in the illness many patients may fall into the category of severe ME.
The quality of life of ME patients shows marked diminution. However, there is a spectrum of
severity. Broadly speaking, up to 25% may be termed severely affected ie. severely restricted in
mobility and ability to carry out essential daily tasks and attend to personal care.
At its most extreme, patients may be totally bedbound and report constant pain, inablity to tolerate
movement, light or noise and certain scents or chemicals (including prescribed drugs). They will
often spend periods of time bedbound, housebound or wheelchair-bound. Neurological symptoms
can be extreme - with, for example, difficulty swallowing, temporary paralysis.
It is important to check for intercurrent illness such as chest infection.
There is concern that GPs may not be aware of the clinical conditions of the most severely affected
patients, making it difficult for their needs to be addressed. Patients may suffer severe debility
from the intensity of one prominent symptom or from a cluster of symptoms such as sore throat,
swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. Some may become bedbound because of fatigue per se or
from, for example, post-exertional fatigue.
Individualised approach
The care and support of such severely affected patients requires a very individualised approach,
with care being delivered in the patient's own home as much as possible. It is vital for clinicians to
be aware that there is very little research evidence on management of such patients and that
simple extrapolation from other patient groups is usually inappropriate. Such patients can only
manage physical or cognitive tasks for very short periods, if at all, and this will need to be reflected
in consultations.
Expectations must be realistic and discussed with the patient to focus their very limited energy on
things that are meaningful for them. Severe effects may prevail for many years before any
improvement or stabilisation is seen.
The primary care team is crucial for supporting severely affected patients. Where provision exists,
severely affected patients should be referred to a specialist, experienced in severe ME-CFS,
immediately26. Where there is no specific provision it would be appropriate to refer to the
consultant physician most capable of dealing with the patient's particular clinical needs.
There should be understanding and agreement between clinicians and patients as to
what are an individual's most important goals. It may be an agreement to achieve modest
increases in self-care or activities of daily living.
Medication can still be useful to help with symptoms such as pain, sleep and secondary
anxiety, muscle spasms and cramps, and nausea - see p 18. Many experts have advised that
very low doses of medication be used initially (liquid formulations can help with this).


Respite care may be helpful if desired, but ideally should be in settings that have experience with
people with severe ME-CFS, and that are adapted to their particular needs.
Carers are especially important in supporting patients, and their own needs must be considered.
Many patients, especially those who live alone, will lose the means to manage their
home circumstances, including finances, and effectively seek help and support during
their time of incapacity. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the longer it takes to receive medical
and practical assistance, the longer the patient's recovery time and the greater the likelihood of
It is hoped that aligning the care of those people severely affected, with long-term conditions
planning in Health Boards, will allow a full assessment of the needs of those people and allow
appropriate management and support plans to be developed.
Assessment by community nursing, community OT and community physiotherapy would also be
valuable, depending on the specific needs of the patient. This is predicated upon community staff
being able to access appropriate education and training.
Symptom management
"Patient support and well-being are the top priorities. "CCD27
The aim of this section is to inform the GP of management strategies that have been made
available in the NHS. Management strategies not available in the NHS will be dealt with in the
Research section on p 24.
Clinical background
At present there is no uniform care pathway in Scotland. It is important for GPs to involve other
professionals in the care and support of people with ME-CFS. GPs need to be aware of
management strategies that have been employed in the NHS and to be fully aware of the debate
and controversy particularly around Graded Exercise Therapy (GET) and Cognitive Behavioural
Therapy (CBT).
• It is important to give advice/help early on, even whilst waiting for a firm
• It is vital to understand the importance to patients of having a name for their
condition, to inform the patient of the possible duration and impact of the illness
and the uncertainties with which it is associated.
• A number of consultations will be required to establish a positive diagnosis and to
agree and monitor treatment.
• The symptoms of ME-CFS fluctuate in their severity and nature over time, from
day to day and can fluctuate hour to hour.
• What works for one patient may not work for another and a number of different
approaches may need to be tried.
Services should be delivered in ways that are suitable for the individual patient. This may
sometimes mean domiciliary services. This is particularly important for the severely affected who
often experience extreme barriers to accessing all forms of care and treatment.
Clinicians should adopt an holistic" approach in treating the symptoms of ME-CFS.
• Acknowledge the biological and pathophysiological reality, impact and heterogeneity of MECFS
and its symptoms.
• Share decision-making with the patient.
• Be explicit about diagnosis and co-morbidity (if relevant).
• Explain the possible causes, nature and course of the illness, together with possible
management options (benefits/risks), as outlined in this guide, taking account of the person's
age and the stage, severity and variability of their illness.
• Explore the range of management options that can be utilised, as appropriate to the
particular patient's condition.
• Offer information on other sources of support (eg. national charities, local groups and
services). Please see p 26.


Discussion with patients with a working diagnosis of ME-CFS should cover:
• Diagnosis (clear diagnosis can be very therapeutic - recognising the heterogeneity of the
• Acceptance (patients will find it hard to make changes if they don't accept that they have
the illness).
• Energy levels (management of limited energy levels with pacing to avoid 'boom and bust'
because if patients exceed their energy envelope too often or by too much this can cause
severe or long-term relapses).
• Adjustment (this can be hard, and it is OK to have help).
• Symptom control (reducing burden and stopping vicious cycles).
• Support and monitoring (listening, interpreting, guiding).
• Possibility of setbacks (not uncommon).
• Support strategies with appropriate literature.
No single treatment has yet been shown to be consistently effective in alleviating the underlying
disease process. Various rehabilitative approaches have often been found to be potentially
beneficial in modifying symptoms of this illness, and assisting the recovery process, especially in
less severely affected patients. While a variety of drug treatments have been suggested for people
with ME-CFS, few have been subjected to well organised, randomised controlled trials (RCTs).
Rating scale
A completed rating scale (see p 32) can guide the symptom management plan by indicating:
• Which symptom(s) predominate for an individual patient.
• Which symptoms can be more readily managed by medication.
Repeating the rating scale at regular intervals gives insight into how the illness fluctuates in an
individual patient over time.
Care pathway
Different care pathways and services need to be developed for groups with particular
requirements such as children and young people; those severely affected; housebound and
bedbound patients; and those living in remote or rural areas. Where the patient group is
small, such as in remote and rural areas, it may be necessay to develop services for ME-CFS
integrated with the management of other chronic diseases, or to work in partnership with
other NHS Boards.
Each health Board will have or will develop its own care pathway – see Needs Assessment
online at


Pharmacological treatments

Reducing the most unpleasant symptoms can help the patient to regain a sense of control, as well
as stop vicious cycles, eg. with sleep or mood disturbance. They can be especially useful whilst the
patient adjusts to the illness and whilst longer term strategies are developed that may reduce the
drive to symptoms (eg. through attempting over-activity). Medication and non-drug treatment can
help. Some agents can help several symptoms, so choices may reflect what combination of
symptoms the patient wishes most to control. Many patients have reported the value of meditation
and relaxation techniques.
People with ME-CFS are often very sensitive to the side-effects of drugs, particularly antidepressants,
anaesthetics and those which act on dopaminergic transmission (eg.
metoclopramide). However, these agents can be efficacious at lower doses in such patients.
Consequently, it is normally desirable to commence at a low dose, followed by gradual increases, if
necessary and tolerated. This may require the use of liquid preparations. Some agents are
especially poorly tolerated, including beta-blockers, and the more activating anti-depressants
(paroxetine, fluoxetine, venlafaxine).
• Pain relief
The value of heat and gentle massage should be considered. Simple analgesics should be
tried first, including paracetamol, co-codamol or NSAIDs, topical or systemic. The gastric
side-effects of NSAIDs must be particularly noted. Should these prove ineffective, treatment
focused on the type of pain can help. There are reports of patients requiring opiates to
control their pain.
For neuropathic pain (burning, shooting, dysaethesia, fibromyalgia), a very low dose of a
sedating tricyclic, such as amitriptyline or nortriptyline can be tried initially, especially if there
is also sleep disturbance. If of value the dose can be slowly increased. If tricyclics are
ineffective, insufficient or not tolerated, gabapentin or pregabalin, or else valproate, can be
useful. A TENS machine or acupuncture can be useful for some patients.
Muscle pain is sometimes accompanied by twitching, fibrillation, cramps and spasm. Cautious
use of a centrally acting muscle relaxant (such as baclofen) may be helpful in selected cases
to reduce unwanted or unco-ordinated muscle activity. Diazepam is licensed for muscle
spasm but there are concerns about its use in this condition, particularly regarding
pronounced side effects and risk of withdrawal.
• Sleep disturbance
The importance of a good sleep pattern should not be underestimated. Hypersomnia is a
well recognised problem, particularly in the early stages of the illness. It is appreciated that
many mild to moderately affected patients rely on daytime and weekend sleep to allow them
to work or undertake other essential activities. Relaxation and meditation techniques can be
very useful.
If medication is required, then use of a low dose of a sedating tricyclic, such as amitriptyline,
nortriptyline, or trazodone, should be tried, as these can help re-establish sleep rhythm.
Non-sedating agents should be used if the patient has early morning wakefulness, but no
problem initiating sleep. It is important to explain that these agents are being used to treat
sleep, as patients may know them as 'anti-depressants.' A hypnotic should only be used in
the short term. Melatonin is awaiting SMC approval.
Some patients find that sleep may be helped by low doses of non-activating SSRIs (taken in
the morning), especially if there is associated anxiety.
The pros and cons of daytime napping is an area that remains controversial.


• Headache
If migrainous in nature, standard treatments for migraine should be tried, including triptans if
appropriate. If frequent, then prophylaxis with amitriptyline, nortriptyline, pizotifen,
gabapentin or valproate should be tried, but beta-blockers should be avoided.
• Abdominal symptoms
People with ME-CFS often suffer from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. This should be
treated using conventional medication, such as ispaghula husk and antispasmodics (eg.
mebeverine, alverine). A low dose of a sedating tricyclic at night may also be useful, such as
• Disorders of balance
This is common, especially after viral labyrinthitis. Exercises are often ineffective or not
tolerated, but some patients can reduce the unpleasant symptoms with betahistine or
• Effects on mood
For patients with co-existent clinical depression and/or anxiety, pharmacological treatment
with an anti-depressant may be appropriate. Treatment should be started in a low dose and
monitored for effect, being gradually increased if necessary and tolerated. Patients with MECFS
tend to do better on the less activating agents such as citalopram, sertraline, trazodone
or mirtazapine. Choices and combinations of agents should be tailored to patient
circumstances, especially the presence of sleep disturbance. Some patients prefer to use St
John's Wort, which can also be helpful in some cases.
When appropriate, patients should be offered anxiety management or psychotherapy.
Other pharmacological treatments:
• Amantadine
There is no firm evidence of the value of this drug at present.
• Antifungal drugs
Antifungal drugs should only be prescribed when there is a proven fungal infection. There
is no scientific evidence to support the hypothesis that Candida is involved in ME-CFS.
• Antiviral drugs
As yet there is no firm evidence to prescribe these medications. As noted earlier a wide
range of viruses and other infectious agents have been investigated but findings are mixed
and there is no conclusive support for anyone pathogen. At present, there is limited
evidence of persistent viral infection. This is an area of ongoing research.
• Calcium antagonists
Nimodepine has been suggested as a possible treatment on the basis that there is
evidence of cerebral hypperfusion. Some patients have reported great benefit - further
research needs to be done as nipodepine does not have SMC approval.
• Central nervous system stimulants
Drugs such as methylphenidate should not be used to treat fatigue as this controlled drug
is not licensed by the MHRA for the treatment of ME-CFS.
• Complementary therapies
Although unproven by clinical trials, patients' reports suggest that acupuncture may help
to relieve pain and other therapies may have a role to play in improving well-being.


The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health says that if patients and families express an
interest in trying complementary therapies they should be encouraged to find out the details
of the proposed therapy and therapist. This should include the extent of the therapist's
previous experience with ME-CFS, the risks and proposed benefits, the costs and whether or
not it would conflict with, or interfere with current treatment. They should also be advised to
avoid trying too many things at the same time or persisting with something that is either not
helping or apparently causing adverse effects29.
• Dietary regimes
There has been some research into the efficacy of particular dietary regimes - a recent study
reported that following an anti-candida diet (low sugar and low yeast) did not show any
measurable differences on the assessment of levels of fatigue, mood swing or quality of life
measures. Some patients have reported benefits from an anti-candida diet.
Sensitivities and intolerances to various foods are often experienced by people with ME-CF5
and may contribute to gastrointestinal problems.
A diet which maximises energy levels and health is to be encouraged. As part of a healthy
diet suggest avoiding caffeine and alcohol, limiting sugar intake and balancing blood sugar by
taking more, smaller meals and having healthy snacks available.
• Hormonal treatments
Hydrocortisone - studies have shown conflicting results.
Dehydroepiandrosterone - one study found raised levels suggesting that supplementation
could be harmful.
Thyroxine - not to be prescribed in patients with normal thyroid function.
• Low dose naltrexone
Low dose naltrexone has been advocated by a Scottish GP. Further research needs to be
• Vitamins and minerals
Patients should keep up to their Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) for essential
nutrients, especially if they are restricting their diet for some reason.
Some people with ME-CFS need supplements because of a restricted dietary intake or
nutritional deficiencies30.
There is little evidence from clinical trials that vitamin B or magnesium31 supplements are of
value but some patients have reported benefit from taking B12 for fatigue.
As for all women contemplating pregnancy, women with ME-CFS should be advised to take
folic add. If their diet is poor or they are on medications such as gabapentin, then please see
British National Formulary (BNF) for the recommended dose.
Some anecdotal patient reports say vitamins C and B are helpful.
Consider the possibility of vitamin D deficiency in patients who are housebound, or who are
on a severely restricted diet.


Non-pharmacological management

Although the Cochrane Collaboration found some evidence in support of CBT and GET32, there is
debate about the limitations of trial designs and these treatments are controversial. In 2008, a
survey of over 2760 people with ME-CFS, undertaken by Action for M.E., found that 82% of
respondents had found pacing most helpful. 50% found CBT helpful and 45% of those who said
they had received graded exercise therapy (GET) or graded activity found it beneficial (compared
to 7% for CBT and 34% for GET in 2001). However, 34% of patients who said they had received
GET or graded activity and 12% of those who said they had received CBT since 2005 reported that
they felt worse after these treatments33.
Each individual is best managed according to a unique flexible management plan, in which specific
strategies and therapies are tailored to his or her particular circumstances.
All clinical interventions carry a potential risk of harm, especially if applied incorrectly; for ME-CFS
in particular, imposed, rigid programmes can be actively harmful34.
It has been reported that ME-CFS patients have a different physiological response to exercises
than those who are healthy or depressed (see p 31)35.
At present it is difficult to be didactic about this advice. It is intended that a programme for
education and training will aid GPs in acquiring appropriate skills in this area.
In most cases the aim for management will be re-enablement or rehabilitation in terms
of regaining function, according to the patient's needs and circumstances. Re-enablement
should encompass cognitive, emotional and social aspects as well as physical aspects.
Any rehabilitation or increase in activity should start from an agreed, stable and
possibly very low, baseline and should be gradual36. Keep goals small and achievable.
Although a return to previous levels of functioning in the short to medium term is often unrealistic,
patients can be encouraged to set goals that involve steadily increasing both physical and mental
activities once their condition has started to stabilise and increases in activity have been
maintained consistently.
If it is felt that management strategies supervised by a therapist, experienced in ME-CFS, such as
activity management and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be beneficial, the choice of
programme, its components and progression must be agreed by the patient and therapist and that
patient and therapist are viewed as a partnership.
'Rehabilitation' does not necessarily have to mean 'exercise' - it may refer to any activity. Progress
must be regularly monitored.
A relapse must trigger a reassessment of the management plan.
Fluctuations in the condition are natural and may include natural plateaux which may last for
years, setbacks or more substantial relapses. Such fluctuations would indicate a need to reassess
the management plan or for activity levels to be slowed down.
Not all patients may benefit from activity strategies and some may even have been
Other aspects are also important, particularly in young people eg. education and training,
development etc. Adults may also not be able to undertake their original job and may need careers
advice and re-training.
People with ME-CFS are as potentially disabled as those with other chronic conditions and are
therefore entitled to apply to the Department for Work and Pensions for the full range of sickness
and disability benefits, including the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) - see p 26.


Energy management

Activity management or pacing is a way of managing the reduced 'energy envelope' of people with
ME-CFS. Gaining the balance between activity and rest can be difficult. It will vary from patient to
patient and also during the course of the illness in any patient, It is important to avoid periods of
'boom and bust' in energy expenditure, both physical and mental. Adequate and good quality rest
is crucial, especially in early stages and during relapses.
• Activity management is an approach that is customised to the needs of the person with
ME-CFS. It is based on an understanding that all activities have physical, emotional and
cognitive components and on identification of those components.
• Pacing is largely a self-management technique with the underlying approach being to
establish sustainable activity levels. A safe, consistent and often low baseline of activity
(mental as well as physical) should be established which avoids setbacks (including delayed
reaction). A diary may help to establish patterns of activity. This is widely considered by
patients to be the most helpful intervention. Appropriate, good quality, literature is essential.
Setbacks and relapses are crucial reasons to re-evaluate the management plan. Support can
be obtained from literature from ME charities eg. the Action for M.E. booklet on Pacing
(contact details on p 28).
• Graded exercise therapy (GET) is intended to redress decline in physical fitness due to
inactivity. Not all ME-CFS patients become deconditioned and some patients have said
that GET has worsened their symptoms.
GET makes use of an exercise programme involving a gradual increase in exercise/activity.
It must be delivered by a suitably trained GET therapist with experience in MECFS
ideally on a one-to-one basis.
Some patients with ME-CFS report that exercise programmes have been applied inflexibly at
times, without consideration of individual circumstances and goals, sometimes with
significant adverse responses. It is essential that agreement and negotiation are at
the very centre of any GET programme.
As with any chronic illness, counselling from a trained counsellor/nurse can be very useful,
particularly in the early stages of the illness, in supporting patients as they learn to manage the
consequences of ME-CFS.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a psychological intervention usually undertaken on a oneto-
one basis. Research so far has failed to differentiate between the effectiveness of CBT on
people with neurological conditions and those with other fatigue states. However, CBT is being
provided in England to help people with ME-CFS to cope with their illness.
The essence of the treatment is to examine difficulties as they relate to events in an individual's life
and identify patterns of expectation which may be unhelpful to coping with being unwell for a
prolonged time. CBT can be used, as in other chronic physical medical conditions, as a tool to aid
people develop better ways of coping with symptoms such as fatigue, pain and sleep disturbance.
CBT would be of value to patients when their symptoms have led to a psychological response that
has compounded their problems.


CBT and GET have been shown in some studies, mainly in mild to moderately affected patients, to
produce varying degrees of benefit in some people with ME-CFS37. However, as ME-CFS is a very
heterogeneous condition other patients report that these approaches are of no help at all or may
even be harmful in the case of GET. Pacing is widely used and is currently the subject of a formal
clinical trial, together with CBT and GET (see p 24).
Telemedicine is an area which may play a part in treatment in the future, especially for patients in
remote areas. For further information see:
Healthcare professionals interested in reading about ME-CFS from the perspective of a GP with the
illness may be interested to read: ME-CFS/PVFS An exploration of the key clinical issues,
(ME Association, September 2008) and Living with ME (Vermillion, 1999) both by Dr Charles



There is much research being undertaken at present in the field of ME-CFS.
Current research covers a number of areas of importance including the biological basis of the
condition, the development of specific tests into the condition and looking at appropriate
treatments. The aspiration is that, in time, the outcomes of such research can be translated into
clinical practice.
It is important that in Scotland we have a mechanism which brings together researchers, practising
clinicians and people with ME-CFS to drive the research agenda. This will lead to improved clinical
practice in the NHS.
This section cannot be exhaustive but the links provided will allow GPs to access up to date details
on research projects.
Examples of current research
• Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is an under-recognized condition in chronic fatigue
syndrome, A Hoad, G Spickett, J Elliott and J Newton, QJM 2008 101(12>:961-965;
doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcn123 and Symptoms of autonomic dysfunction in chronic fatigue
syndrome, Newton J.L et al, Q J Med 2007; 100:519-526. Professor Julia Newton, Newcastle
University, has been investigating the effect of low blood pressure on fatigue. She reports on
tilt-table testing where 52% of people with ME-CFS exhibit orthostatic hypotension with 27%
exhibiting positional orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. She advises treatment regimes of
home hypostatic training and the prescription of midodrine.
• Gene expression subtypes in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic
encephaiomyeiitis. Kerretal. Journal: J Infect Dis. 2008 Apr 15; 197 (8): 1171- 1184.
• Role of enterovirus in chronic fatigue syndrome, J K S Chia, Journal of Clinical Pathology
2005; 58:1126-1132; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is associated with chronic enterovirus
infection of the stomach, J K S Chia, A Y Chia, Journal of Clinical Pathology 2008; 6V. 43-48.
• PACE trial: The Medical Research Council has supported the PACE trial, which includes a
study in Lothian Health Board. PACE is a UK randomised controlled trial of adaptive pacing,
CBT, graded exercise and usual medical care for chronic fatigue syndrome which is currently
underway. Findings expected 2010.
• FINE trial: UK randomised controlled trial of nurse-led self-help treatment for primary care
patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.
• Use of valgancklovir in patients with elevated antibody titers against Human Herpes 6 (HHV-
6) & Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) who were experiencing centra! nervous system dysfunction
including long-standing fatigue: randomised, placebo-controlled and double blind study at
Stanford University (awaiting publication


• Chronic fatigue syndrome: inflammation, immune function and neuroendocrine
interactions, Klimas NG, and Koneru A, Current Rheumatology Reports, Vol. 9, #6, pp 482-
487, Dec. 2007.
• ME-CFS and mitochondrial dysfunction; Dr S Myhill, N E Booth & J McLaren Howard ;
International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, January 2009 (online), www. This paper outlines a test that has been developed at a private
clinic. Depending on the outcome of the test the authors would prescribe dietary supplement,
drugs and detoxification. The test is not available on the NHS. This research has not yet been
independently validated.
This list represents a very small sample of current work. Seventy trials were reviewed in Effective
treatments for CFS/ME, CRD Report 35 Summary Report, University of York, 2006 and the charity,
ME Research UK, has a research publications database which lists papers back to 1956 (see
Further information
New research is routinely posted on
In Scotland, the charity, ME Research UK (MERUK) is supporting biomedical research, both by
direct financial support and through holding international conferences.
Further websites:
The CFS Research Foundation website: The
MEA Ramsay Research Fund:
Invest in ME: www.nameus.


Support for patients

GPs primarily provide medical advice but can also support patients with day to day living (including
help with benefits, social care and employers) including referral to appropriate agencies eg.
Citizens Advice Bureau and social work.
Services should be delivered in ways that are suitable for the individual patient; this may
sometimes mean domiciliary services. This is particularly important for the severely affected who
often experience extreme barriers to accessing all forms of care and treatment.
Welfare benefits
People with ME-CFS are as potentially disabled as those with other chronic conditions and are
therefore entitled to apply to the Department for Work and Pensions for the full range of sickness
and disability benefits, including the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Further guidance may need to be produced following the welfare reforms currently underway.
In order to qualify for benefits the claimant has to provide sufficient medical evidence to support
the claim. The GP's input is essential for a claim to succeed. The fluctuating nature of the condition
needs to be taken into account when assisting with welfare benefits applications.
ME-CFS is an illness that can be covered by the Disability Discrimination Act.
Useful contacts for patients
People with ME-CFS can contact Citizens Advice Bureau and www.adviceguide. or one of the main charities (p 28) for advice on welfare benefits, housing, transport issues
Local authorities often have benefits/money advice centres - see local phone directory. Centres for
Inclusive Living give information and advice on a wide range of issues including benefits and
money eg. Grapewine and Lothian Centre of Inclusive Living.
There are also local welfare benefit advice organisations and information is available from local
support groups (see p 29). The following organisations provide useful contacts and resources for
Action for M.E. Welfare Rights Line
Factsheets on ESA, DLA etc plus a Welfare Rights Line for people with ME.
Tel: 0845 123 2380 for opening times
Citizens Advice
The local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help patients to fill in the forms. See the
phonebook for the nearest bureau,
Disability Alliance
Free factsheets are available to download from their website. They also produce a guide, ESA -
Employment and Support Allowance, price £7 (£2 for people on benefits). The guide can be
ordered by telephoning 020 7247 8776 (please note that this is not an advice line).



Benefit Enquiry Line for people with disabilities, plus downloadable factsheets from the website,
which links to further information at Jobcentre Plus.
Tel: 0800 882 200, Mon-Fri 8.30am-6.30pm and Sat 9am-1pm.
Jobcentre Plus
How to claim and further information.
Some Disability Information Advice Line offices help with Welfare Rights issues. Check your local
phone directory to see if there is a DIAL UK office near you. The national office number is 0130
2310 123.
Benefits and Work
The Benefits and Work website contains plenty of information about benefits. Membership of
£18.95 a year gives unlimited access to their guides for claimants and members forum.
Social care
Social care is vital, especially for people who are severely affected. Depending on the level of
disability, people with ME-CFS may be unable to undertake their own personal care, domestic tasks
such as shopping, cooking, laundry, deal with money issues, etc.
Provision of adequate support will require a partnership of health and social care. Early
recommendation for a community care assessment will be helpful.
Allocation of a key worker or contact responsible for ensuring adequate and appropriate input to
the patient's home can work well.
NB, Many people with ME-CFS rely heavily on a family member for daily care, who may themselves
require support, advice, information or a care assessment. Carers Scotland has a useful website for
carers at
Emotional support
There is still some stigma associated with ME-CFS and it is important to recognise that, as well as
experiencing debilitating symptoms and loss of income/work/educational/social opportunities
unsupportive attitudes amongst family, friends and professionals can increase the sense of
isolation and emotional impact on patients.
A recent survey of 168 ME-CFS patients in Lothian highlighted the importance of listening to
patients and providing continuity of help and support38.
As previously mentioned, counselling from a trained counsellor/nurse can be very helpful where
patients report difficulties adjusting to long term illness
As well as offering support through regular monitoring, the GP should put the patient in touch with
relevant charities, which offer helplines, a wide range of publications and online links to local
support groups.
NHS patient information is available at:


Appendix 1
Useful resources and contacts

1. Myalgic Encephalomyelltis/chronic fatigue syndrome: clinical working case definition,
diagnostic and treatment protocols, Carruthers et al; Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,
January 2003 (Canadian Consensus Document).

2. ME-CFSIPVFS An exploration of the key clinical issues, Dr Charles Shepherd and Dr
Abhijit Chaudhuri for the ME Association, September 2008

3. Living with ME-CFS, Dumfries & Galloway ME Network (see opposite)

4. Pacing for people with M.E., Action for M.E. 2007

5. As well as the Pacing booklet, Action for M.E. has a series of articles by medical
professionals and others, together with a number of factsheets, available to download free
from its website,

6. The ME Association's publications list is also available online at

National charities

Action for M.E.
Booklets including Pacing for people with M.E., plus factsheets, volunteer supportline, welfare
rights helpline.
Tel: lo-call 0845 123 2380

ME Association
Factsheets and volunteer helpline. Tel: 0870
444 1836
Association of Young People with ME (AYME)
For children and young people up to 25 Tel: 08451
23 23 89

25% Group
For people who are severely affected Tel:
01292 318611

Young ME Sufferers Trust (Tymes Trust)
Tel: 0845 003 9002


Local support groups
ME and You Aberdeen
Gregor McAbery
Tel: 01224 581162

Cathcart ME Group
John McKnight Tel: 0141 632 2486
ME East Kilbride [MEEK] Group
Maisie Karrick Tel: 01355 233369

Dumfries & Galloway ME Network
Norma and Denis Turner
Tel: 01576 204129

Edinburgh Mesh Group

ELMESH (East Lothian ME Self Help)
Dr Marilyn McNeill Tel: 01620 880651

Falkirk ME Self Help Group
Neil Swinnerton
Tel: 01506 842599

ME Support Fife
Catherine Lewis Tel: 01334 653202
Glasgow West
Ewan Dale
Tel: 0141 332 8115

Glasgow ME-CFS Meet-up Group
Anna Wood
Tel: 01419452682


Inverness ME / Fibromyalgia/CFS Support Group
Brenda Fraser
Tel: 01463 238533

Lanarkshire ME Support Group
Jane Giakoumakis
Tel: 01698817114

Adrian A Lauder
Tel: 01631 720262
Paisley & District ME Support Group
Theresa Bates
Tel: 0141 561 3426

Perth ME Group
E Moncrieff

MESKYE (Isle of Skye)
Mike Wotton
Tel: 01470 592369
ME Support (Stirling)
Alexandra Russell Tel: 01786 816478
Other useful organisations
Long Term Conditions Alliance Scotland
Tel: 0141 404 0231

Carers Scotland

Citizens Advice Scotland

Thistle Foundation
Tel: 0131 661 3366
Children in Scotland
Enquire helpline for advice on educational support needs.
Tel: 0845 1232303


Appendix 2

Response to exercise
Table from Canadian Consensus Document
Res Response to exercise Healthy people ME-CFS patients
Sense of well-being Invigorating,
Feel malaise, fatigue and
worsening of symptoms
Resting heart rate Normal Elevated
Heart rate at maximum workload Elevated Reduced heart rate
Maximum oxygen uptake Elevated Approximately 1/2 of
sedentary controls
Age-predicted target heart rate Can achieve it Often cannot achieve it, and
should not be forced
Cardiac output Increased Sub-optimal level
Cerebral blood flow Increased Decreased
Cerebral oxygen Increased Decreased
Body temperature Increased Decreased
Respiration Increased Breathing irregularities:
shortness of breath, shallow
Cognitive processing Normal, more alert Impaired
Recovery period Short Often 24 hours but can last
days or weeks
Oxygen delivery to the muscles Increased Impaired
Gait kinematics Normal Gait abnormalities


Appendix 3

Severity rating scale
The Canadian Consensus Document has been used as a source document in the compilation of the Scottish
Good Practice Statement. The following guide is well recognised and used by practitioners on an international
scale. It was designed to assist GPs in assessing severity and duration of symptoms and is to be completed
by the patient.
Rank your symptoms in order of severity (1 being your most severe) in the left column. Rate severity of
symptoms by putting a check mark in appropriate column to the right of the symptoms.
Rank Symptom 0
Post-exertional fatigue: loss of physical and mental
stamina, fatigue made worse by physical exertion
Long recovery period from exertion: takes more than 24
hours to recover to pre-exertion activity level
Fatigue: persistent, marked fatigue that substantially reduces
activity level
Sleep disturbance: non-restorative sleep, insomnia,
Pain: Pain: in muscles, joints, headaches
Memory disturbance: poor short term memory
Confusion and difficulty concentrating
Difficulty retrieving words or saying the wrong word
Gastrointestinal disturbance: diarrhoea, IBS
Recurrent sore throat
Recurrent flu-like symptoms
Dizziness or weakness upon standing
Change in body temperature, erratic body temperature, cold
hands and feet
Heat/cold intolerance
Hot flushes, sweating episodes
Marked weight change
Breathless with exertion
Tender lymph nodes: especially at sides of neck and under
Sensitive to light, noise, or odours
Muscle weakness
New sensitivities to food/medications/chemicals
Total check marks in Column
Column Total
Total Score: -----------Overall symptom severity: mild______moderate_____severe
(Mi ld- occurring at rest, moderate - symptoms that occur at rest become severe with effort, unable to work,
and severe - often housebound or bed-bound).
Other Symptoms
Change in symptoms
How good is your sleep on a scale of 1-5? (5 = good restorative sleep, 1 = no sleep)
How do you feel today on a scale of 1-10? (10 = terrific, 1 - totally bedridden)


Appendix 4

Sleep and pain profile
Adapted from Canadian Consensus Document
Name Date to
Complete this chart for the week before your next appointment
Day Awakening
to fall
Name___________________________________ Date _________to_____________
Temp a.m.: Take your temperature as soon as you awaken, while you are still lying down.
Also indicate if you feel cold (C), had cold feet (CF), or cold hands (CH), and if you were stiff (S).
Time slept: Indicate approximate number of hours and minutes you slept.
Sleep quality: Good, fair, or poor. Also indicate the number of times you woke during the night including waking up much
too early, eg. if you woke up twice (W2). Indicate if you know why you woke up - eg. to urinate, muscle cramps, nasal
congestion, etc.
Pain: 0 to 10, 0 being no pain, 10 being the worst pain you have experienced.
Energy level: Indicate your average energy level for the day - 0 being bedridden, 10 full of energy.
Temp p.m.: Take your temperature before going to bed. Indicate if you feel cold.
Minutes to fall asleep: Indicate as best you can how many minutes it took you to fall asleep.
Was anything in particular bothering you this week, eg. family crisis?
Body pain diagram
Pain Visual Analog Scale (Pain VAS), Body Pain Diagram
Please indicate the amount of pain you have had in the last 48 hours by marking a 2/2 through the
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
On the following diagrams, please indicate your areas of:
Aching: ===
Burning pain: xxx
Stabbing pain: ///
Pins and needles: ooo
Other pain: ppp
Describe ________________________________________________________________________


8. References

1 Outline for development of services for CFS/ME in Scotland. Report of the Scottish Short Life Working Group,
December 2002

2 Scottish Short Life Working Group, December 2002

3 Report of the CFS/ME working Group: report to the Chief Medical Officer of an Independent Working Group. 2002.
London, Department of Health.

4 Based on Gallacher et al, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, December 2004

5 Diagnosis and management of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalopathy) in adults and
children, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), 2007

6 CFS/ME Working Group Report, 2002

7 ME diagnosis delay harms health: A report from the ME Alliance, 2005

8 Evidence was taken to the Cross Party Group (CPG) on ME in 2009 to show that holism could mean that it was not
necessarily central to care to diagnose a physical illness. This definition was rejected by the CPG, which supported
what clinicians would understand as holistic care.

9 NICE guideline, 2007

10 NICE guideline. Quick Reference Guide, 2007

11 Carruthers et al; Myalgic Ertcephalomyelitislchronk fatigue syndrome: clinical vjorking case definition, diagnostic and
treatment protocols. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, January 2003 (Canadian Consensus Document)

12 Carruthers etal, 2003

13 Editorial on the Canadian ME-CFS guidelines: Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Vol. 11(1) 2003 pp. 1-6

14 www.stanford edu/-dement/epworth.htm[

15 A pediatric case definition for ME and CFS, Jason et al, a.pdf

16 Evidence based guideline for the management of CFS/ME in children and young people, Royal College of Paediatrics
and Child Health, December 2004

17 Thirteen-year follow-up of children and adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome. Bell DS, Jordan K, Robinson M.
Pediatrics, May 2001.

18 Long-term sickness absence due to ME-CFS in UK schools: an epidemiological study with medical and educational
implications. Dowsett EG, Colby J. Journal of CFS, 1997

19 Carruthers etal, 2003

20 Carruthers et al, 2003

21 Carruthers et al, 2003

22 ME-CFS/FVFS An exploration of the key clinical issues, ME Association, Septem ber 2008

23 The diagnosis and management of (CFS/ME) - child protection guidance for professionals working in health, social
services and education, AYME and Action for M.E., 2006

24 CFS/ME Working Group Report, 2002

25 CFS/ME Working Group Report, 2002

26 NICE Quick Reference Guide, 2007

27 Carruthers et al, 2003

2S See ref 8 above

29 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2004

30 NICE Quick Reference Guide, 2007

31 Magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome. Cox IM, Campbell MJ, Dowson D, DaviesS, Walden RJ., Lancet 1991;

32 Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome, Edmonds M, McGuire H, Price J. Cochrane Database of Systematic
Reviews. 2004 Issue 3 and Price JR, Mitchell E, Tidy E, Hunot V. Cognitive behaviour therapy for chronic fatigue
syndrome in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001027. DOI:

33 M.E. 2008: what progress? Action for M.E., 2008, published online at: Summary%20Report%202008.pdf

34 CFS/ME Working Group Report, 2002

35 Carruthers etal, 2003

36 CFS/ME Working Group Report, 2002

37 Effective treatments for CFS/ME, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York, 2006. inst/crd/C RD_Reports/crdreport3 5_su m m pdf

38 Believe in ME; pa tient experiences of accessing and using services in Lothian to treat ME-CFS/PVFS. A patient
involvement initiative. Anne-Marie Comber, Edinburgh CHP, Liz Simpson, South Central LHP, May 2009



The publication of this document has been led by Dr Gregor Purdie, Clinical Lead for ME, NHS
Dumfries & Galloway and co-ordinated by Action for M.E., on behalf of the Scottish Government
Health Directorates. It has been produced in consultation with Scottish medical practitioners,
people with M.E. and their representatives, ME charities and support groups and professionals in
health, social care and research.
Dr Purdie, Action for M.E. and the Scottish Government Health Directorates would like to thank
everyone who participated in the consultation. Without your help this document would not have
been produced.


Action for M.E
272 Bath Street
Glasgow G2 4JR*
Tel: 0141 353 9545
© Action for M.E 2009-06-23
*Action for ME registered office: Third Floor, Canningford House, 38 Victoria Street, Bristol B51 6BY
Reg Charity no. 1036419. Scottish reg charity no. SCO40462

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


The Cross Party Group in the Scottish Parliament.

The majority of the work of the Cross Party Group continues to be on investigating Managed Clinical Networks, Discussions about a Centre of Excellence and on feedback and discussions about the Scottish Good Practice Statement as well as ways to Increase awareness of the promotion of scientific developments around ME.

A meeting of the Cross Party Group took place on Wed 18th November 2009.

This meeting also included the Annual General Meeting which had been held over from previous meetings due to lack of MSP's attending.

ndy Kerr opened the meeting and was joined by Alex Fergusson (The previous Chairman of the group and now Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament) and Charlie Gordon, our local MSP. Andy proposed that he dealt with the AGM and approval of previous minutes whilst Alex Fergusson and Charlie Gordon were available.

Nominations to the Committee had already been received and were approved by the meeting.

Minutes of the September meeting were approved but there were some points relating to the May minutes which required some additional clarification.

We were then given a Presentation of Results of research by Dr Susan Hagan of Glasgow Caledonian University, in which she discussed some promising findings from her research, which indicates Potential Biomarkers in ME/CFS and which backs up previous research in this area. Unfortunately funding for her work runs out in April 2010, and the results of applications for additional funding will not be known until early next year.

We were also given a presentation by Dr Marilyn McNeill on the recent discovery of the Human Retrovirus XMRV and its implication for ME sufferers. Marilyn, who is a member of the Cross Party Group, did a literature search on this discovery and also looked at how the research had been performed and reported.

She was of the opinion that the research was of good quality and that the results were very significant. It was her feelings that whilst the virus had been found in ME patients in the USA it was important to conduct research for the retrovirus on patients in the UK. The meeting agreed and the Group will write to the MRC with this recommendation.

Further information on the work and composition of the group can be found at:

The next meeting takes place on Wed 13th January 2010.

Needs Assessment.

At the request of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Public Health Network has undertaken a Health Care Needs Assessment of Services for People Living with ME-CFS and its findings will inform the NHS in its planning of future services. The needs assessment has been subject to widespread stakeholder involvement and formal patient scrutiny, and was available for national consultation until September 2009.

Further details can be found on ScotPHN’s website .

Scottish Good Practice Statement and conference

Good practice in ME-CFS, the conference to launch the Scottish Good Practice Statement, was due to take place in Glasgow, 9 September, but has been postponed because of swine flu.

Concerns were raised after reports that GP surgeries could be overwhelmed with patients as swine flu spread and vaccinations became available.

Dr Gregor Purdie, lead author of the Statement, Will Scott, Long Term Conditions Unit, Scottish Government Health Directorates agreed that a conference for GPs is unlikely to be well attended until the pandemic has passed. There would also be concerns about any risk to the health of people with ME attending the event.

The delay, although unfortunate, does allow more time for medical peer review, which has not progressed as quickly as hoped. So far the Statement has been through three rounds of consultation and Dr Purdie has made substantial revisions at each stage.

The Statement was sent to a number healthcare professionals, academics and professional bodies in Scotland for consultation. It was also available as a press proof copy at an event in the Scottish Parliament during ME Awareness Week.

The professional peer review reference group will be asked to focus on how to make the Statement as useful as possible to GPs, in particular by looking at the inclusion of a diagnostic and/or therapeutic algorithm - a stepped series of instructions - probably in the form of a diagram, which may also form the basis of a laminated reference card. 1

1Cathcart ME Support Group. Reports. Committee Overview 2009