Letters

Chronic fatigue syndrome in children

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7113.949 (Published 11 October 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:949

Journal was wrong to criticise study in schoolchildren

  1. E G Dowsett, Honorary consultant microbiologista,
  2. Jane Colby, Consultant for the education of children with myalgic encephalomyelitisb
  1. a South Essex Health Trust, St Andrew's Hospital, Billericay, Essex CM12 0BH,
  2. b 25 Dakyn Drive, Stock, Essex CM4 9TA
  3. c 7 Priory Road, Wells BA5 1SR
  4. d ME Association, High Street, Stanford le Hope, Essex SS17 0HA

    Editor—In his editorial on managing the chronic fatigue syndrome in children Harvey Marcovitch implies that a 37% response rate to our questionnaire about long term sickness absence in schools was poor and insufficiently explained, and he states that we overinterpreted the resulting data.1 2

    Detailed information on 333 024 pupils and 27 327 staff in 1098 schools cannot be so lightly dismissed. A balanced response from schools of different types and for different age ranges in widely spaced geographical locations made the rate of response unlikely to produce bias. The accuracy of case ascertainment in each district was easily checked by reference to variables in other diseases reported, such as leukaemia. Difficulties in obtaining responses were clearly explained as resulting from reorganisational demands on British schools concurrent with the study. Competition for funding produces additional pressures on corporate image, as also explained. Schools and local education authorities generally expressed reluctance to provide these statistics. A pilot study in private schools produced a response rate of only 27%, even though details of illness did not differ from those in the public sector.

    The study also made clear that schools were not involved in medical diagnosis, as suggested by Fiona Godlee.3 Schools have a legal duty to confirm the …

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