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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:-  15 May 2006

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HIDDEN THOUSANDS DEVASTATED BY M.E.

NEW research published this week by the UK's leading M.E. charity, Action for M.E., suggests that a hidden 55,000 people in Britain are so severely affected by the illness that they're either bed-bound or house-bound.

M.E. also has a huge economic impact. The survey suggests that 77% of the total 240,0001 people in the UK with M.E. have lost their jobs because of the illness, with a cost to the nation of £6.4 billion a year.  The 55,000 severely affected by M.E. are likely to have been ill for many years, and are often too ill to attend hospitals or doctors surgeries. They are also likely to suffer from severe pain, which few people realise is regularly associated with the illness.

The survey findings, published as part of Action for M.E.'s campaign: "M.E. - More Than You Know", provide the most up-to-date, detailed analysis on the severity and impact of the illness ever carried out in this country.

Trish Taylor, Chair of Action for M.E., says:- "M.E. devastates lives. It robs people of their ability to work, and destroys their close relationships. It leaves many sufferers in wheelchairs and some, who are unable to feed themselves, have to be tube-fed.  M.E. is much, much more than feeling 'a bit tired'. And if that is what you believe then today we challenge you to think again. To look with new eyes at those who live with the severe pain and suffering this disease brings."

The results are released alongside a separate GB-wide Ipsos MORI survey, which showed that 35% of the general public has never even heard of M.E. when prompted, despite there being almost 3 times as many people with M.E. as M.S.  Only 5% of the respondents who were aware of M.E. were aware of how widespread it is (stating that between 200,000 and 300,000 people suffered from M.E. in the UK), with 34% believing there were less than 50,000 sufferers in the UK.

M.E. is a painful and debilitating illness, affecting around 1 in every 250 people in the UK. The illness affects many body systems and their functions, particularly the nervous and immune systems. In 2002, the British Government gave formal recognition to the illness. It is also recognised by the World Health Organisation as a neurological condition.  M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis,  Encephalopathy) is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and sometimes diagnosed as Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS).

Research Summary
Severity of illness: Action for M.E.'s survey of 2,200 people with M.E. found that 23% of them were either bed- or housebound. Those who'd had M.E. the longest i.e. over 10 years - 49% respondents - were the most likely to describe their illness as severe or very severe (28%). 74% of all respondents were either bed- or housebound when their illness was at its worst.

Pain: 67% of respondents experience pain on a constant or daily basis.  73% of respondents reported experiencing severe or very severe pain when their illness was at its worst.

Loss of employment: Before developing M.E., 63% of those questioned worked full-time, compared to 6% after. Over a quarter of those who lost their jobs were either dismissed or forced to resign.

Symptoms: 83% of respondents experienced severe flu-like malaise when their illness was at its worst, and 55% still do. 50% also list digestive problems as a symptom of the illness. 89% felt that M.E. had affected their ability to learn new things - even amongst those who described their symptoms as mild.

SMALL BUSINESSES LOSING FAITH IN POLICE

A NEW report has revealed that 41.5% of North West small businesses suffering crime in the past year haven't reported incidents to police.  Almost 75% of those who were victims told the Federation of Small Businesses that they didn't bother reporting crimes such as employee theft because experience had taught them "it wouldn't achieve anything".

The crime statistics reported to the FSB rank the North West as the 4th highest crime hotspot in a total of 12 UK regions with well over half of small businesses experiencing some kind of crime in the past 12 months.  Thousands of businesses throughout the region were quizzed for the Federation's "Lifting the Barriers to Growth" survey.  Figures for the North West also highlighted that a further 46% did not report crimes against their business because they did not think police would find the criminals.

This shows a marked reduction in the confidence small businesses have in the police - 2 years ago, when the survey was last conducted, the figure stood at 28%.

The figures also revealed that a 3rd of businesses experiencing crime did not bother to make an insurance claim despite almost 60% of businesses experiencing some kind of crime in the past year.  Vehicle theft, graffiti and vandalism were by far the most common crimes with over a 3rd of FSB members experiencing at least one of these crimes.

The FSB - which represents around 18,500 businesses in Manchester, Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire and Merseyside - believes the figures are a clear wake-up call to Government to do more to protect small businesses and improve their faith in the criminal justice system.

North West policy manager Paul Henly said:- "The Government has tried to tackle crime against small businesses in recent years but our research shows that employers want visible measures such as more police rather than simply locally funded crime prevention measures.  For instance, there's a lot of focus on schemes such as Business Watch and Shop Watch, but only three per cent of our members believe that these were very effective.  With over 60% of businesses experiencing crime in one form or another, there are clearly a lot of employers who are simply tolerating criminal activity as another cost they have to face.

The true cost of crime against businesses is being masked by apathy but it also hides a bigger problem - crime is a major deterrent for investors.  While local authorities and development agencies spend millions of pounds trying to attract major businesses to the region, small businesses, which also employ thousands of people can be put off from investing if they feel an area is plagued by crime."

Operation Ghana

LOOKING for a challenge with a difference this autumn?  Rebuild an African Community and help a UK charity save babies’ lives at the same time!

Join the UK’s leading cot death charity, the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), in renovating a vital but run down medical facility in rural Ghana for ten days this October. Minimum sponsorship required. Contact Pam O’Brien on 020 7222 8003. Hurry - places are going fast!   Registered charity 262191

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