British doctor known for defending children prohibited from treating ME patients

GMC imposes limits on Dr Nigel Speight’s license; UK Charities Fight Back

On 20 April, the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC) imposed limits on the medical license of Dr Nigel Speight, well known for his work in protecting children with ME/CFS against inappropriate psychological intervention and removal from their families.
The order restricts him to working in NHS posts as a consultant general paediatrician and forbids him to carry out any work in relation to ME/CFS, including unpaid work. The restriction holds until July 2017.
The GMC have not published the reasons for their action.
Dr Charles Shepherd, medical advisor of the ME Association (MEA), said in a statement from the charity, “I have been in regular contact with my friend and colleague Dr Nigel Speight before, during and after the hearing to offer my full and continuing support.”
Dr Shepherd has sent a detailed letter of support from the MEA and has coordinated a joint letter of support from ME/CFS charities, professional colleagues and parents of children with ME/CFS in the UK and abroad. The MEA will release a statement on this matter next week.
Dr Speight has released the following letter:

Dear friend/supporter,
I am sorry to have to tell you of the result of my hearing before an Interim Orders Tribunal of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service on 20 April 2016. Most of you will be familiar with the sequence of events that led up to this case and the current GMC investigation.
At the hearing, my barrister offered that I should voluntarily withdraw from all ME related activity pending further investigation by the GMC. The panel did not accept this offer, but have imposed interim conditions on my registration mirroring the voluntary restrictions I had offered for a period [of] 15 months. The conditions prevent me from carrying out any work in relation to ME in either a paid or unpaid capacity.
The IOT Panel concluded that my practice in the field of ME/CFS may be deficient, and that it was necessary to impose an interim order for the protection of members of the public and to maintain public confidence.
On the positive side, apart from these conditions, the IOT has not restricted my practice in paediatrics in general. The IOT has not made any findings of fact and the order will be reviewed after 6 months. The IOT is not the forum in which to challenge the substance of the complaint made to the GMC.
To those of you who represent charities, I am afraid that I must with immediate effect withdraw my services as a medical/paediatric adviser. I wish you luck in finding someone to fill the gap. I will direct all patients and families with whom I have had prior contact back to your charity for advice.
Please also understand that these restrictions even extend to preventing me speaking or lecturing on the subject of ME.
To my fellow members of the authoring committee of the International Consensus report on paediatric ME/CFS, I am afraid I also have to withdraw from future contributions.
To my friends in Norway and Germany, I am afraid this means that I am unable to continue to support the three families I have already met, either informally or in legal proceedings.
Thanks for very much for all your support. Wish me luck
Best Wishes to you all in your continuing struggles to support patients and families

Discussing his past work with children with ME/CFS, Dr Speight has said, “The most distressing cases I have encountered were those in which families were being subjected to Child Protection proceedings. This was usually due to the failure of the local doctors to officially diagnose ME, or for them to diagnose it but to imply it wasn’t a real, i.e., organic condition. This left the families open to alternative explanations such as neglect, emotional abuse or Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.”
He added, “I was involved in more than twenty of these cases around the country and am proud to have been instrumental in reversing the proceedings in all but a small handful.”
At the time of his hearing, Dr Speight was medical advisor to the MEA, and the 25% ME Group, as well as a member of the Tymes Trust Referrals Panel. Before his retirement from his post as a consultant paediatrician in Durham in 2007, he had seen over 500 cases nationwide after a wheelchair-bound patient interested him in ME/CFS over 30 years ago. He currently does locum work.
Patients have started an e-card to gather messages of support for Dr Speight, to be delivered to him on Tuesday, 26 April, which had already gathered over 200 signatures within 12 hours of being posted online. Anyone may write a message in the card, and registration is not necessary.  You can help highlight Dr Speight’s incredible contributions to our community by adding more information to his #MEpedia page here.  Until we are certain of what Dr Speight wants and needs, we are not taking further action.
A video interview (in English) with Dr Speight by the ME Association of the Netherlands about his work protecting children can be found below.
Editor’s note: This article previously reported that the limits started after a complaint from Esther Crawley, medical advisor to the Association of Young People with ME. This was in error – we do not know how the complaint was initiated.


19 thoughts on “British doctor known for defending children prohibited from treating ME patients”

  1. Barbara from Germany

    Cannot anyone in the UK start an action of protest-mails? ( I’m from Germany) The cards are nice ( I’ve written one, too), but will have no impact on the GMC !

    1. Barbara,
      We are in contact with the doctor; we want to act according to his wishes rather than doing anything that might end up hurting the cause in the long run. I understand your deep desire to act on this! I share it. This really is a travesty.

  2. What is really at the bottom of European governments that insist on supporting psychiatrists who claim ME is all in our heads (categorically not) than supporting respected neurologists, Rhuematologists and paediatricians and world renowned retrovirologists who know ME is a physical illness that just may include depression in some but not in all sufferers cases. Why is it psychiatrists have some hold on ME research projects for ME when clearly the best of our interests are served by neurology and Rhuematology but certainly NOT psychiatry?? I can’t help wondering after all these years why psychiatrists are heard but other experts are not? Something is not right here is it?

      1. Russell J Fleming

        There should I think be a means of contacting ME Action but I can’t see one on the website or blog pages.
        This complaint was not initiated by Dr Crawley. We do not know the details. There was a letter from Dr Speight which found it’s way into the public domain unintentionally at the start of these proceedings and which explained the history of the case but at that time – and to date – we do not know who initiated the complaint. Dr Crawley was involved at some point in the care of this young patient as were others.
        I think it prudent that until details are made known and from irreputable sources we err on the side of caution so as to not affect Dr Speight legal case.

          1. Russell J Fleming

            Edit: I don’t suppose I meant ‘irreputable sources’ but ‘reputable sources’. I blame the brain-fog!

        1. Thank you so much for the correction, Russell. We’ve updated the article to reflect this.

  3. This his so infuriating. The GMC seem to have a very consistent pattern of acting as Esther Crawley’s lapdogs. The action against Dr Sarah Myhill springs immediately to mind. This was clearly an extermely peevish action by Professor Cawley who should get out of medicine and stay out of medicine. I regard her action in this field as mass neglgence.
    Dr Speight has my fullests support, he is clelary acting in good conscience and since he works in places where non life saving treatment is being forced upon the children against parents wishes, there simply no grounds for this action whether you agree with his position or not.
    The GMC can hardly be regareded as competant though they have a history of failing to act where doctors are dangerously and systematically negligent such as a surgeon guilting of cramming in so many surgeries he took only 10 to 15 minutes per surgery. He was cleared twice and ended up killing a patient.

  4. I just googled Esther Crawley, and stumbled across
    This dates from 2012 and in it, she seems to support a biological basis for ME. I wonder, therefore, what has caused her to flip to the psycho-model. I’d write and ask her myself, but know from experience that these publicly funded self-styled ‘experts’ never respond to individual taxpayer questions, even when politely worded!

  5. Here’s an update for your MEpedia page on Dr Esther Crawley : I can verify this as it is my very own specialist NHS ME clinic. The one I walked into in 2011 with a walking stick but still managing to work, albeit part-time. I left 6 weeks later and within days found myself bedridden. I have been housebound and never worked since. We must wait until the ME Association make their statement after today’s meeting, before we know how they and Dr Speight wish us to proceed. Trust me, we are all champing at the bit to take action!

  6. Yes, please do keep us updated (including on what we can do). Thanks for keeping us informed!

  7. This half-hour youtube of Dr Speight demonstrates his compassion, expertise and down-right common-sense.
    It really is a travesty that this excellent physician has been gagged by the medical/political establishment.
    I wish sincerely that justice will prevail and that he can soon go back to doing what he does so well, ie bringing some light and hope into the lives of families affected by the horrible illness that is ME.
    “Presentations from “Exercise and ME/CFS: the evidence” evening at Bristol Watershed Part 2.
    Dr Nigel Speight, consultant paediatrician and medical advisor for 5 ME charities, sees the worst cases where ME patients are desperately ill and where children and families are threatened. He explains his approach of supporting and empowering sick children who have ME”

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