Scotland’s only nurse specialising in myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) has called for urgent change to help improve the lives of at least 20,000 Scots affected by the condition.
NHS Fife’s Keith Anderson said the lack of knowledge about ME among fellow medical professionals was “scary” ahead of a Holyrood event to raise awareness of the little-understood illness.
ME, sometimes known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is a debilitating neurological disease which causes symptoms including profound fatigue and cognitive impairment.
It can strike people of all ages and devastate previously healthy and active lives, but despite it affecting more people in Scotland than MS and Parkinson’s combined, doctors receive almost no training on the illness.
A special event hosted by Gail Ross MSP and supported by UK charity Action for ME is being held at the Scottish Parliament in the run-up to ME Awareness Day on Saturday.
Speaking before the event, Mr Anderson said: “There are more pandas in Scotland than ME nurses.
“If there were more ME specialist nurses in the NHS, we would not only be able to help improve the lives of those affected by the illness, but also educate those across all health care professions about a condition that affects more than 20,000 people in Scotland.
“It’s scary to find out that many GPs and other doctors don’t know what ME is, let alone how to manage it.”
Theresa Burns, Action for ME’s project coordinator in Scotland, said: “We have already been working with the Scottish Government to improve access to the right information about ME for some health professionals, as part of our Inform ME Scotland project.
“Now we want to build on this, by exploring how we might develop more detailed training on ME for health and social care professionals.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that people living with ME are able to access the best possible care and support, and benefit from healthcare services that are safe, effective and put people at the centre of their care.
“We are investing an extra £2.5m into the Specialist Nursing and Care Fund each year. It is for NHS Boards to decide where to prioritise this resource dependent on the needs of their population.”