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:
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.