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Online treatment for chronic fatigue

Press Association logoPress Association 1/11/2016 Thomas Hornall

A disabling disease that drains energy out of sufferers will be tackled with a new online treatment trial of more than 700 children and teenagers.

Those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) - also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) - experience erratic sleeping patterns, nausea and headaches, and are persistently left crippled with exhaustion.

Now, a new clinical trial - the largest of its kind - will follow a successful 2012 version conducted in the Netherlands to find out if online-only home treatment is viable for use on Britain's NHS.

The Dutch study found around two-thirds of patients (63 per cent) had "recovered" using FITNET (Fatigue in Teenagers on the Internet) versus 8 per cent in normal care after six months.

Half of patients will undergo an online treatment dubbed FITNET-NHS. It will see children and parents work through intensive online modules, do homework, make diary entries and have regular therapist appointments through video.

The control group half will use Activity Management. They will be given advice on making sleep and activity changes with some Skype calls from therapists but care will be handed to their local GP.

Paediatrician Professor Esther Crawley, of Bristol University, who is leading the trial, said: "Children with CFS/ME are desperate for specialist treatment and we need to think of new ways to deliver it."

Activists have raised questions over using psychological treatment for a biological disease.

But Professor Crawley says: "There is plenty of evidence now to say this is a real illness. But just because this is not a psychological illness, that does not mean psychological therapy cannot help - that is true throughout medicine."

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