Fibromyalgia is Real
Published on Monday, 05 September 2005 00:00
We are delighted that so many medical professionals are now supporting fibromyalgia sufferers and understand the problems we encounter on a day to day basis. However, for those of you who still encounter negative attitudes from your medical professionals we have prepared a document for you to print out, included some 'official' quotes and will give you a website that you can check out as well.
If your medical professional does not believe in fibromyalgia, this is an individual opinion as the Department of Health does, indeed, recognise fibromyalgia as a 'real' illness and has published the facts on their NHS Direct website. We have produced a document
to this effect which you can download and print.
NHS Direct Website
If your medical professional refuses to believe that fibromyalgia is a ‘real’ condition, you can gently point them in the direction of their own NHS Direct website www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk
. From this site, click on ‘health encyclopaedia’, click on ‘Alphabetical Index’, choose letter ‘F’, then select Fibromyalgia.
Department for Work & Pensions (DWP)
Professor Aylward, on behalf of the DWP, reaffirmed that the DWP recognises fibromyalgia as a real and disabling condition, and not just something that is "all in the mind". Even though the cause of fibromyalgia remains unclear, the important factor when deciding benefit claims is the effect the condition has on the individual. Medical Services doctors who assess people on behalf of the DWP are trained in disability assessment medicine; and the DWP is developing a training website for GPs, to raise their understanding of this specialised field.
At our 2004 International Conference on Fibromyalgia, Dr. Moira Henderson from the Department for Work & Pensions gave a very informative presentation on the Government Perspective on fibromyalgia as well as an insight into benefit claims.
The Government Perspective
The Government recognises fibromyalgia and other chronic fatigue syndromes as real and potentially disabling conditions. The Department for Work and Pensions perspective is in relation to state sickness and disability benefits; but the Department of Health also the challenges of chronic fatigue syndromes, as demonstrated by the recent allocation of £8 million for research, and for provision of effective management of the condition.
In terms of state benefits, the Government remains committed to enabling people to remain in or return to work where possible; and the Incapacity Benefit reforms currently being piloted aim to provide additional help and support for people of working age with disabling conditions. Being in work can help to reduce social exclusion and social isolation, and to increase a person’s sense of achievement and self-esteem; and all of these can contribute towards development of positive coping strategies. But the Government recognises that not every person with a disability will be able to work, so the safeguard of state sickness and incapacity benefits continues to exist. And disability benefits also continue to exist, for those who have significant problems with self-care or restricted mobility.
The Benefit Process
Applying for state sickness or disability benefits can be a daunting process, involving completion of lengthy claim forms, and often also attending for a medical assessment.
The two main benefits people with fibromyalgia are likely to consider claiming are Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance. Each benefit has its own entitlement criteria, laid down in law. Understanding the entitlement criteria is useful when completing claim forms, enabling people to focus on and provide the right information which will help the Department for Work and Pensions decision makers to decide the claim. And understanding the benefit decision making process can help to make the whole procedure a less daunting experience.
The Department for Work and Pensions is responsive to feedback from benefit claimants about the processes, and there is always work in hand to improve them.
Fibromyalgia is NOT all in our Head
Gone are the days when GPs told us that there was no such thing as fibromyalgia and that it was all in our heads. The NHS now accepts fibromyalgia as a ‘real’ chronic illness and both the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson and Dr Stephen Ladyman MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health have assured us that GPs must now accept and diagnose fibromyalgia.