Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Health
517. To ask the Minister for Health if his Department and the HSE will recognise ME/CFS as a long-term illness; if his Department and the HSE will review the guidelines on the diagnosis and management of ME/CFS in view of the recent report published by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence with updated guidelines on ME/CFS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62498/21]
Myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalopathy) / Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a complex debilitating disorder affecting multiple body systems and its pathophysiology is still being investigated. ME/CFS is characterised by severe fatigue accompanied by a range of other symptoms. It is also a fluctuating condition in which a person's symptoms can change unpredictably in nature and severity over time.
As a result, clinical assessment and the design of care plans need to be tailored to the individual patient. In general, these treatments are delivered within the context of primary care by General Practitioners, with referrals into secondary care for specialist interventions in the areas of Neurology, Rheumatology, Pain Specialists, Endocrinology, Immunology, Cardiology, etc. The challenge in relation to ME/CFS is that it does not sit within one specialty, but crosses a number of specialties, with patients attending different Consultants for management of symptoms as they arise. The General Practitioner (GP) is regarded as best placed to refer patients, if appropriate.
The Health Service Executive, on behalf of the State, does operate two schemes which assist citizens with their medication costs. These are the Drugs Payment Scheme and the General Medical Services Scheme.
Under the Drugs Payment Scheme no individual or family pays more than €114 a month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The maximum payable under the Drugs Payment Scheme will be further reduced to €100 per month from 1 January 2022. The scheme significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals with ongoing expenditure on medicines.
People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be eligible for a medical card. In accordance with the provisions of the Health Act 1970 (as amended), eligibility for a medical card is determined by the HSE. In certain circumstances the HSE may exercise discretion and grant a medical card, even though an applicant exceeds the income guidelines, where he or she faces difficult financial circumstances, such as extra costs arising from illness. In circumstances where an applicant is still over the income limit for a medical card, they are then assessed for a GP visit card, which entitles the applicant to GP visits without charge.
Individuals may also be entitled to claim tax relief on the cost of their medical expenses. This includes medicines prescribed by a doctor, dentist, or consultant. Relief is at the standard tax rate of 20%.
As this question also relates to a service matter, I have also asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.