Alex Sobel MP has joined calls for the DWP to recognise fibromyalgia as a medical condition, to allow those suffering from this condition to be eligible for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is defined by the NHS as “a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.” Effects of this disease include, extreme fatigue, widespread pain (including muscle stiffness and soreness and painful joints), increased sensitivity to pain, difficulty sleeping, irritable-bowel syndrome and headaches.
In a heart-breaking revelation in Westminster Hall on Tuesday (15th Jan), Labour’s Justin Madders MP revealed that his wife was a sufferer of fibromyalgia. For her the worst symptom is the impaired cognitive functioning associated with the disease- sometime known as “the fibro-fog.”
In the same session, Mr Sobel raised the case of one of his constituents and fibromyalgia sufferer, James. James is so fed up of the lack of support he received that he wrote to Sobel “saying that a lot of medical professionals look at him as if the condition does not exist, and that the worst part is that nobody understands it and it is not recognised. He got zero support. He suffers from physical depression. The antidepressants do not work and he cannot get the support or the treatment that he needs...”
James’s story is unfortunately not uncommon and sufferers see DWP recognition of the disease as an important step forward. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it's thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system processes pain messages. Some estimates suggest nearly 1 in 20 people may be affected by fibromyalgia to some degree. Sufferers say the condition makes it extremely difficult to maintain steady employment, but whilst the condition is unrecognised by the DWP, sufferers report finding it near impossible to get support to live independently.
According to Mr Sobel although this situation may be rectified by DWP recognition of fibromyalgia, the experience of sufferers points to a the wider problem within the benefits system, that fails to take the views of sufferers sufficiently into account when making benefit decisions. “Under this Tory government,” says Sobel, “it is well-known that an environment of hostility has been created at the DWP towards benefits claimants, including those with disabilities. Until this environment is changed, James’ story will be retold by sufferers of other conditions the DWP refuses to recognise, against prevailing medical evidence.”
If you think you have fibromyalgia, visit your GP