Northern Ireland’s only ME clinic closes down

From BBC News online, Friday 18 September 2009

The only treatment centre for ME sufferers in Northern Ireland has closed down.

The clinic, based at Belfast City Hospital, was run on a voluntary basis by a consultant psychiatrist who has a special interest in the condition.

ME sufferer Horace Reid said there was now nowhere for the 7,000 other sufferers to go for dedicated help.

However, the Department of Health said ME patients "continue to have access to appropriate care and treatment".

ME, or Myalgic Encephalopathy, is a debilitating condition and symptoms can include severe fatigue, joint pain and disturbed sleep.

It is also commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Mr Reid, who is now 46 years old, developed ME when he was 30.

Describing his experience of the illness he said: "Your life, as it was, is gone and you make painful adjustments".

‘Pressure’

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said the Windsor House clinic was attended by "a small number of patients" and explained that the consultant was not obliged to provide the service but had done so "entirely voluntarily in addition to his normal contracted work".

He has now moved to a different area of the Trust following a review.

The Department of Health said the closure was due to the "pressure of competing priorities" but added that patients would receive treatment "ranging from primary and community care to specialist regional neurology services, depending on their assessed individual needs".

"As is currently the position in the other four trusts, ME patients from the Belfast Trust can now be referred to general clinics or neurology clinics throughout their trust area for appropriate treatment depending on their assessed individual needs."

The Department also stated that patients from Northern Ireland can be referred to specialist clinics elsewhere in the UK if clinically necessary.