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1.  Social support needs for equity in health and social care: a thematic analysis of experiences of people with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis 
Background
Needs-based resource allocation is fundamental to equitable care provision, which can meet the often-complex, fluctuating needs of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). This has posed challenges both for those providing and those seeking support providers, in building shared understanding of the condition and of actions to address it. This qualitative study reports on needs for equity in health and social care expressed by adults living with CFS/ME.
Methods
The participants were 35 adults with CFS/ME in England, purposively selected to provide variation in clinical presentations, social backgrounds and illness experiences. Accounts of experienced needs and needs-related encounters with health and social services were obtained through a focus group (n = 6) and semi-structured interviews (n = 35). These were transcribed and needs related topics identified through data-led thematic analysis.
Findings
Participants emphasised needs for personalised, timely and sustained support to alleviate CFS/ME impacts and regain life control, in three thematic areas: (1) Illness symptoms, functional limitations and illness management; (2) practical support and social care; (3) financial support. Access of people with CFS/ME to support from health and social services was seen to be constrained by barriers stemming from social, cultural, organisational and professional norms and practices, further heightened for disadvantaged groups including some ethnic minorities. These reduced opportunities for their illness to be explained or associated functional limitations and social disadvantages to be addressed through social support. Participants sought more understanding of bio-psycho-social aspects of CFS/ME, of felt needs of people with CFS/ME and of human rights and disability rights, for providing person-centred, equitable care.
Conclusions
Changes in attitudes of health practitioners, policy makers and general public and more flexibly organised health and social care provision are needed to address equity issues in support needs expressed by people with CFS/ME, to be underpinned by research-based knowledge and communication, for public and professional education. Policy development should include shared decision-making and coordinated action across organizations working for people with CFS/ME, human rights and disadvantaged groups. Experiences of people with CFS/ME can usefully inform an understanding of equity in their health and social care.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-10-46
PMCID: PMC3229491  PMID: 22044797
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis; thematic analysis; social support; experiences; recognition; social welfare
2.  Prevalence of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) in three regions of England: a repeated cross-sectional study in primary care 
BMC Medicine  2011;9:91.
Background
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has been used to name a range of chronic conditions characterized by extreme fatigue and other disabling symptoms. Attempts to estimate the burden of disease have been limited by selection bias, and by lack of diagnostic biomarkers and of agreed reproducible case definitions. We estimated the prevalence and incidence of ME/CFS in three regions in England, and discussed the implications of frequency statistics and the use of different case definitions for health and social care planning and for research.
Methods
We compared the clinical presentation, prevalence and incidence of ME/CFS based on a sample of 143,000 individuals aged 18 to 64 years, covered by primary care services in three regions of England. Case ascertainment involved: 1) electronic search for chronic fatigue cases; 2) direct questioning of general practitioners (GPs) on cases not previously identified by the search; and 3) clinical review of identified cases according to CDC-1994, Canadian and Epidemiological Case (ECD) Definitions. This enabled the identification of cases with high validity.
Results
The estimated minimum prevalence rate of ME/CFS was 0.2% for cases meeting any of the study case definitions, 0.19% for the CDC-1994 definition, 0.11% for the Canadian definition and 0.03% for the ECD. The overall estimated minimal yearly incidence was 0.015%. The highest rates were found in London and the lowest in East Yorkshire. All but one of the cases conforming to the Canadian criteria also met the CDC-1994 criteria, however presented higher prevalence and severity of symptoms.
Conclusions
ME/CFS is not uncommon in England and represents a significant burden to patients and society. The number of people with chronic fatigue who do not meet specific criteria for ME/CFS is higher still. Both groups have high levels of need for service provision, including health and social care. We suggest combining the use of both the CDC-1994 and Canadian criteria for ascertainment of ME/CFS cases, alongside careful clinical phenotyping of study participants. This combination if used systematically will enable international comparisons, minimization of bias, and the identification and investigation of distinct sub-groups of patients with possibly distinct aetiologies and pathophysiologies, standing a better chance of translation into effective specific treatments.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-91
PMCID: PMC3170215  PMID: 21794183
3.  The functional status and well being of people with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome and their carers 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:402.
Background
Diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome or ME/CFS is largely based on clinical history, and exclusion of identifiable causes of chronic fatigue. Characterization of cases and the impact of interventions have been limited due to clinical heterogeneity and a lack of reliable biomarkers for diagnosis and outcome measures. People with ME/CFS (PWME) often report high levels of disability, which are difficult to measure objectively. The well being of family members and those who care for PWME are also likely to be affected. This study aimed to investigate the functional status and well being of PWME and their lay carers, and to compare them with people with other chronic conditions.
Methods
We used a cross sectional design to study 170 people aged between 18 and 64 years with well characterized ME/CFS, and 44 carers, using SF-36 v2™. Mean physical and mental domains scores (scales and component summaries) were calculated and compared internally and externally with reference standards for the general population and for population groups with 10 chronic diseases.
Results
SF-36 scores in PWME were significantly reduced, especially within the physical domain (mean norm-based Physical Component Summary (PCS) score = 26.8), but also within the mental domain (mean norm-based score for Mental Component Summary (MCS) = 34.1). The lowest and highest scale scores were for "Role-Physical" (mean = 25.4) and "Mental Health" (mean = 36.7) respectively. All scores were in general lower than those for the general population and diseased-specific norms for other diseases. Carers of those with ME/CFS tended to have low scores in relation to population norms, particularly within the mental domain (mean = 45.4).
Conclusions
ME/CFS is disabling and has a greater impact on functional status and well being than other chronic diseases such as cancer. The emotional burden of ME/CFS is felt by lay carers as well as by people with ME/CFS. We suggest the use of generic instruments such as SF-36, in combination of other objective outcome measurements, to describe patients and assess treatments.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-402
PMCID: PMC3123211  PMID: 21619607
4.  A Disease Register for ME/CFS: Report of a Pilot Study 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:139.
Background
The ME/CFS Disease Register is one of six subprojects within the National ME/CFS Observatory, a research programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund and sponsored by Action for ME. A pilot study in East Anglia, East Yorkshire, and London aimed to address the problem of identifying representative groups of subjects for research, in order to be able to draw conclusions applicable to the whole ME/CFS population.
While not aiming for comprehensive population coverage, this pilot register sought to recruit participants with ME/CFS in an unbiased way from a large population base. Those recruited are constituting a cohort for long-term follow-up to shed light on prognosis, and a sampling frame for other studies.
Findings
Patients with unidentified chronic fatigue were identified in GP databases using a READ-code based algorithm, and conformity to certain case definitions for ME/CFS determined. 29 practices, covering a population aged 18 to 64 of 143,153, participated.
510 patients with unexplained chronic fatigue were identified. 265 of these conformed to one or more case definitions. 216 were invited to join the register; 160 agreed. 96.9% of participants conformed to the CDC 1994 (Fukuda) definition; the Canadian definition defined more precisely a subset of these. The addition of an epidemiological case definition increased case ascertainment by approximately 4%. A small-scale study in a specialist referral service in East Anglia was also undertaken.
There was little difference in pattern of conformity to case definitions, age or sex among disease register participants compared with subjects in a parallel epidemiological study who declined to participate.
One-year follow-up of 50 subjects showed little change in pain or fatigue scores. There were some changes in conformity to case definitions.
Conclusions
Objective evaluation indicated that the aim of recruiting participants with ME/CFS to a Disease Register had been fulfilled, and confirmed the feasibility of our approach to case identification, data processing, transmission, storage, and analysis. Future developments should include expansion of the ME/CFS Register and its linkage to a tissue sample bank and post mortem tissue archive, to facilitate support for further research studies.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-139
PMCID: PMC3118997  PMID: 21554673
5.  Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) in adults: a qualitative study of perspectives from professional practice 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:89.
Background
Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) can cause profound and prolonged illness and disability, and poses significant problems of uncertainty for healthcare professionals in its diagnosis and management. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore the nature of professional 'best practice' in working with people with CFS/ME.
Methods
The views and experiences of health care practitioners (HCPs) were sought, who had been judged by people with CFS/ME themselves to have been particularly helpful and effective. Qualitative semi-structured interviews following a topic guide were carried out with six health care practitioners. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and subject to thematic analysis.
Results
Five main themes were developed: 1) Diagnosis; 2) Professional perspectives on living with CFS/ME; 3) Interventions for treatment and management; 4) Professional values and support for people with CFS/ME and their families; 5) Health professional roles and working practices. Key findings related to: the diagnostic process, especially the degree of uncertainty which may be shared by primary care physicians and patients alike; the continued denial in some quarters of the existence of CFS/ME as a condition; the variability, complexity, and serious impact of the condition on life and living; the onus on the person with CFS/ME to manage their condition, supported by HCPs; the wealth of often conflicting and confusing information on the condition and options for treatment; and the vital role of extended listening and trustful relationships with patients.
Conclusions
While professional frustrations were clearly expressed about the variability of services both in primary and specialist care and continuing equivocal attitudes to CFS/ME as a condition, there were also strong positive messages for people with CFS/ME where the right services are in place. Many of the findings from these practitioners seen by their patients as helping them more effectively, accord with the existing literature identifying the particular importance of listening skills, respect and trust for establishing a therapeutic relationship which recognises key features of the patient trajectory and promotes effective person-centred management of this complex condition. These findings indicate the need to build such skills and knowledge more systematically into professional training informed by the experience of specialist services and those living with the condition.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-89
PMCID: PMC2994803  PMID: 21078171
6.  The expressed needs of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: A systematic review 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:458.
Background
We aimed to review systematically the needs for support in managing illness and maintaining social inclusion expressed by people with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME)
Methods
We carried out a systematic review of primary research and personal ('own') stories expressing the needs of people with CFS/ME. Structured searches were carried out on Medline, AMED, CINAHL, EMBASE, ASSIA, CENTRAL, and other health, social and legal databases from inception to November 2007. Study inclusion, data extraction and risk of bias were assessed independently in duplicate. Expressed needs were tabulated and a conceptual framework developed through an iterative process.
Results
Thirty two quantitative and qualitative studies, including the views of over 2500 people with CFS/ME with mainly moderate or severe illness severity, met the inclusion criteria. The following major support needs emerged: 1) The need to make sense of symptoms and gain diagnosis, 2) for respect and empathy from service providers, 3) for positive attitudes and support from family and friends, 4) for information on CFS/ME, 5) to adjust views and priorities, 6) to develop strategies to manage impairments and activity limitations, and 7) to develop strategies to maintain/regain social participation.
Conclusions
Although the studies were heterogeneous, there was consistent evidence that substantial support is needed to rebuild lives. Gaining support depends - most importantly - on the ability of providers of health and social care, colleagues, friends and relatives, and those providing educational and leisure services, to understand and respond to those needs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-458
PMCID: PMC2799412  PMID: 20003363
7.  Sharing electronic health records 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2004;328(7453):1437-1438.
PMCID: PMC421830  PMID: 15191987
8.  Diagnose and be damned  
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2000;320(7240):1004.
PMCID: PMC1117876  PMID: 10753161
10.  Changing practice on confidentiality: further points for discussion 
Journal of Medical Ethics  1982;8(4):189-190.
In the March 1982 issue of the Journal Dr Pheby, a community health doctor, was one of several writers to discuss medical confidentiality. Dr Pheby urged doctors to minimise subjective and judgmental comments in medical records and to make clear when their assessments were speculative. He also urged `vigorous reappraisal of the extent to which information about a patient needs to be circulated' to members of other disciplines, for instance, in child health practice. If doctors did not take such steps themselves legal changes might well be imposed upon them, giving patients the right of access to their medical records and perhaps making breach of medical confidentiality a criminal offence.
Mr Jacob, a lawyer, commenting on the papers by Dr Pheby and Mr Kenny, a health administrator, argued that increased legal intervention in medical ethics could quite possibly actually erode traditional medical ethical standards of confidentiality based on peer review and `the ethic of virtue'.
PMCID: PMC1059424  PMID: 7154033
Confidentiality; medical ethics; medical records; doctor-patient relationship; patients' rights.

Results 1-10 (10)