I propose to take Questions Nos. 391 and 392 together.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) / myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalopathy) (ME) is a complex debilitating disorder which is characterised by severe fatigue accompanied by a range of other symptoms.
There is currently no known, specific, medical diagnostic test to determine or confirm a correct diagnosis of ME and no specific treatment which works for all sufferers is currently available. As a result clinical assessment and the design of care plans need to be tailored to the individual patient. There are assessments and tests which can be carried out in primary care settings by a General Practitioner. Specialised tests may be required when considering and ruling out other diagnoses. Relevant specialists are usually accessed through out patient clinics at secondary care level. The General Practitioner is regarded as best placed to refer patients, if appropriate.
Work is under way as part of the implementation of the Strategy for the Design of Integrated Outpatient Services 2016-2020, specifically as regards addressing how and where the patient is treated and the classification of referrals with corresponding clinically recommended time-frames. Consideration is also being given to condition specific referral forms. This work should see significant improvements with respect to access to appropriate services.