Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd February 2023.
I thank Clare Adamson for her intervention, and I am very glad that she made that point. I completely agree that there needs to be a consistent approach and that we must remember young people in this discussion. In a moment, I will talk about a young person who had ME at the age of only six.
Many people who live in rural communities struggle to access help from the NHS, so more has to be done to widen access. My constituent Sarah, who I was talking about, says that ME is not taken with the necessary seriousness and that its physical impact is not sufficiently recognised.
Another constituent, who wishes to remain anonymous, told me that his experience of ME is one of feeling abandoned and stigmatised. He feels that, from the onset of his symptoms through to diagnosis and having to settle into that new life, he was left to figure out everything for himself. He said that, without counselling and the help that he receives from voluntary organisations such as the Dochas Carers Centre in Lochgilphead, he would find it difficult to make the best of his life.
I was contacted by another constituent, who cares for her son. She told me that he has not seen a GP for two and a half years and that, when he does need to see a GP, it is often a struggle to find one who recognises ME as a physical condition as well as a physiological one.
All of those stories—I wish that I had time to recount more of them—have common themes: that ME is a legitimate and debilitating condition that is still not fully understood; that there is often a lack of access to NHS services and treatment, which is often provided by the voluntary sector and by relatives instead; and that those living with ME want to see much more investment in finding a cure so that they can go back to living the lives that they used to lead.
This debate must be the start of a change. We need change and action from the Scottish Government, and it is vital that people living with ME are at the forefront of any developments.
I will finish with a story of hope. It is about someone whose daughter had ME between the ages of six and 19, which is a reminder that ME can afflict people from a very early age. With treatment, she recovered and, at the age of 32, she is healthy, in full-time work and living independently. We need more of those stories, and it is time for the Scottish Government to take action.