Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:42 pm on 23rd January 2002.

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Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour 5:42 pm, 23rd January 2002

I also congratulate Alex Fergusson on securing this debate today and on his work in the cross-party group on ME. Furthermore, I want to pay tribute to the people in the gallery, many of whom suffer from ME or care for ME sufferers. The commitment shown by the people who have campaigned on this issue for so many years is all the more worthy given that although many of them suffer from this debilitating illness, they still find the energy to bring the issue to our attention.

We find ourselves in the almost unique situation of having a widespread outbreak of consensus in the chamber on this subject. Indeed, it is unique to find Nicola Sturgeon and Susan Deacon almost agreeing on a health issue. Long may that continue. I think that that shows the degree of consensus in the chamber over the need to improve how we tackle this particular condition and to conduct further research into it.

I hope that the minister will respond positively to the points that have been raised and base his comments largely on the report published by the chief medical officer for England and Wales. The report contains a number of recommendations that should be welcomed. I am sure that many of the people who suffer from ME will welcome the chief medical officer's clear recognition that it is an illness.

I want the minister to respond to the key question of research. We need further research into the causes of the illness. Once those are fully understood, we can then carry out research into the issue of treatment. The minister should also respond to the question of support for the care of ME sufferers, which is another issue that emerges from the chief medical officer's report.

The final issue that I want to touch on is the need to educate professionals in the health service. As members have said, there are still people in the health service who are sceptical about the status of ME as an illness. We should undertake to produce a programme of education for health professionals to ensure that everyone has their illness properly recognised.