Medical Treatments: Children

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 5th June 2019.

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Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what processes are in place to safeguard children with chronic fatigue syndrome and other disorders whose parents have enrolled them on Lightning Process courses; and what evaluation has been undertaken of the (1) benefits, and (2) harms, to those children who have participated in such courses.

Photo of Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Lightning Process (LP) is not offered as a part of the chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) standard treatments on the National Health Service. Subject to the nature of the safeguarding concerns, issues should be directed to the relevant professional regulator, should the practitioner be a member of a registered profession; the local authority (trading standards office or children’s service), if false claims are being made about the effectiveness of the treatment or welfare of a child is a concern; or the police, if a crime is involved.

The LP involves a course of three half-days of training aiming to teach participants how to use their brain to improve their body's health.

A randomised controlled trial with 100 adolescents aged 12-18 was undertaken by researchers in Bristol. Participants were randomised into two groups: those who received standard CFS/ME treatment and those who received the standard treatment plus the LP.

Researchers found those who received the LP had better physical function, were less tired and less anxious after six months. At 12 months, they had further improvement in physical function, and improved depression scores and school attendance. This research trial had several limitations as set out in the peer reviewed journal article. This was a very small trial and so it would need to be repeated in a much larger group to demonstrate more generalisable findings. Participants were not blinded so their self-reported outcomes might have been biased, for example participants may have been more likely to report positive outcomes because they knew they were getting additional therapy in the LP group. Of all those eligible to participate in the trial, fewer than 30% agreed to take part. Participants in the trial did not have any serious adverse events attributable to either LP or usual care. LP therapy was given in addition to the usual CFS/ME care as a no-treatment control group was not deemed ethical, therefore it cannot be suggested as a replacement for current specialised medical care.

Independent ethical review ensures that participant safety is at the centre of all research. In the United Kingdom, review by an ethics committee is one of a series of safeguards intended to protect the people taking part in the research. The operating procedure for trials in the UK has inbuilt safeguards designed to protect patients from harm in the event an intervention is ineffective or potentially harmful. Participants are free to withdraw from a study at any time.

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