Dr Nigel Speight writes new review of the history of ME/CFS, its clinical features and controversies | 3 June 2013

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Dr Nigel Speight, paediatric medical adviser to the ME Association, has written a short, three-page review for a Saudi publication of the history of ME/CFS, its clinical features and the controversies that allowed “whole generations of doctors in the UK to deny the existence of ME as an organic entity”.

His article appears in the first edition – Volume 1, Issue 1 – of the Saudi Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences, which was published online on 3 June 2013. The full article is available to read HERE.

It starts off with a review of the classic studies by Dr Melvin Ramsay (one of the founders of the ME Association) of the epidemic that took place at the Royal Free Hospital in London in 1955, which was later written off as an episode of “mass hysteria” by the psychiatrists, Colin McEvedy and Bill Beard.

“Attempts were made to abolish the term ME, and to replace it with the term “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”, and this has been vigorously opposed by the patient organisations. Currently, the terms are used synonymously in the UK”, writes Dr Speight.

“In the USA, the term “Chronic Fatigue and Immune Deficiency Syndrome” (CFIDS) has been used although transatlantic thinking is now more in favour of immune activation as part of the pathology.

“In 2002, a Working Party set up by the Chief Medical Officer Sir Kenneth Calman concluded that ME was a “genuine” disease, and that “patients should not be dismissed as malingerers.” Despite this landmark, many patients in the UK still encounter disbelief and rejection by their medical attendants.

“Subsequently, the development of guidelines from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) in 2006 put such stress on the efficacy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that the pendulum has swung somewhat back toward the psychiatric viewpoint (in my view most unfortunately).”


The Saudi Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences has been launched as an official publication of the University of Damman.