#MEAction UK has written a letter of complaint to Good Morning Britain in response to recent statements from Dr Hilary Jones on the programme, regarding the rehabilitation of long COVID patients. In his interview with Kate Garraway yesterday, Dr Jones recommended graded exercise as a strategy for those recovering from COVID-19.
There is now a large amount of consistent and robust evidence relating to the harmful effects of graded exercise therapy (GET) for people with ME, as well as growing evidence that a significant proportion of people are developing ME post-COVID. Advice such as that given on the programme yesterday is not only outdated, it has the potential to condemn thousands of post-COVID sufferers to a lifetime of disability.
Read more about the harm of graded exercise therapy here.
Read our letter:
FAO: Neil Thompson, Editor
Dear Mr Thompson,
#MEAction UK are deeply concerned by recent statements from Dr Hilary Jones on your programme, regarding the rehabilitation of long COVID patients. In his interview with Kate Garraway yesterday, Dr Jones recommended graded exercise as a strategy for those recovering from COVID-19.
As an organisation that campaigns for increased biomedical research into myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) as well as improved patient care, we are only too well aware of the harm caused by graded exercise to people with ME. Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) affects 250,000 people in the UK and causes profound and disabling ill-health. Up to 80% of people with ME experience a post-infectious onset, andnow a growing body of evidence suggests that thousands of post-COVID patients could go on to develop ME. Treatment of post COVID-19 patients and rehabilitation of COVID-19 sufferers needs to consider ME as a differential diagnosis and respond accordingly. This issue has been raised by Paul Garner, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, in this British Medical Journal blog and highlighted in articles in The Atlantic, The Times and the New Scientist, among many others.
In a statement in July, NICE told doctors that graded exercise therapy may not be appropriate for treating post-viral fatigue in patients recovering from COVID-19. In that statement NICE said that it was aware of concerns relating to the use of graded exercise therapy (GET) in the management of post-viral fatigue in patients recovering from COVID-19. It also noted that its current advice on managing chronic fatigue may not be appropriate for this group of patients and acknowledged that it could also be out of date for other groups.1
“NICE’s guideline on ME/CFS [chronic fatigue syndrome] (CG53) was published in 2007,2 many years before the current pandemic, and it should not be assumed that the recommendations apply to people with fatigue following covid-19,” and added, “As the guideline is currently being updated, it is possible that these recommendations may change. The evidence for and against graded exercise therapy is one of the important issues the guideline committee is considering.”
Given that there is now a large amount of consistent and robust evidence relating to the harmful effects of graded exercise therapy (GET), advice such as that given on your programme yesterday is not only outdated, it has the potential to condemn thousands of post-COVID sufferers to a lifetime of disability.
Good Morning Britain and Dr Jones have a duty to give good advice and I am sure wish to do long COVID patients a genuine service. Dr Jones and GMB must issue a retraction of the advice he gave yesterday, warn about potential harm from Graded Exercise and urgently consult with an ME specialist such as Dr Charles Shepherd or a member of Physios for ME, both of whom would I am sure be more than happy to advise him. You should also consider approaching either Professor Garner or Dr Nina Muirhead, both of whom have expertise and experience in the field of post-viral fatigue, for an interview. Failing that please ensure a guest with an informed understanding of the impact of exercise is invited to give viewers a second opinion.