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Fibromyalgia: UK MP Suggests Soap Operas Could Raise Awareness

Thursday 9 July 2015


From UK news outlet Get Reading:


Alok Sharma et al
Alok Sharma with Alice Gostomski, Dr Antoni Chan,
Dr Deepak Ravindran and other attendees at the
first anniversary celebrations of the re-launched
Reading Fibromyalgia Support Group

Fibromyalgia: Reading West MP suggests soap operas could raise awareness

Reading West MP Alok Sharma leads a debate to raise awareness of the painful and fatiguing disease fibromyalgia

By 16:00, 7 JULY 2015

Reading West MP Alok Sharma is urging writers of hospital soap operas to consider storylines about fibromyalgia.

Mr Sharma led a debate Westminster Hall on Wednesday, July 1, about the treatment of fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes increased sensitivity to pain, fatigue, muscle stiffness, difficulty sleeping, problems with mental processes, headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system processes pain messages carried around the body. There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia.

As the condition is relatively unknown, Mr Sharma used the debate as an opportunity to help raise awareness of fibromyalgia and praised the work of the Reading Fibromyalgia Support Group in helping sufferers locally.


He outlined the stories of a number of his constituents living in Reading with the condition and how it has affected their lives.

Speaking in the debate, Mr Sharma also suggested that:

  • knowledge of fibromyalgia must be improved among GPs and other healthcare professionals to help improve diagnosis of the condition
  • strategies should be developed within the NHS to provide an integrated and holistic service with patient empowerment as key
  • the NHS should aim to set up a network of fibromyalgia clinics across the country, so that patients whose condition flates up have somewhere to go for treatment other than A&E or hospital
  • producers of television soap operas should consider including fibromyalgia in their storylines to raise viewers’ awareness of the condition.

He said in the debate: “My final point is about raising awareness of the condition more generally. Jeanne Hambleton, a freelance journalist and health writer, has informed me that last year she wrote to two well-known TV soap operas and asked whether one of the characters could be diagnosed with fibromyalgia to raise viewers’ awareness of the condition.


“Sadly, she did not hear back from the producers of either programme. I have no doubt that many people watch debates on Parliament TV, but it is safe to venture that many, many more watch soap operas. If the producers of ‘Casualty’ or ‘Holby City’ are watching the debate, they may want to get back to Ms Hambleton about her suggestion.”

After the debate, Mr Sharma said: “I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to raise the issue of fibromyalgia in Parliament.

“Despite being a little-known disease, fibromyalgia is not uncommon and deserves to be spoken about more. The more we do to raise awareness amongst clinical staff and the general population of fibromyalgia the better chance that sufferers can get proper treatment and the more likely we will eventually find a cure.”

NHS England

George Freeman MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of Life Sciences responded to the debate by saying he would write to Martin McShane, the head of long-term conditions at NHS England, to ask whether “more formal networks can be established and whether, with the support of active patients and charities, there is more we can do to develop such groups and to help them to support research into developing new treatments and pathways”.

Alice Gostomski, leader of the Reading Fibromyalgia Support Group, said: “Everyone at the Reading Fibromyalgia Support Group would like to thank Alok, who has been a fantastic supporter of the group, for leading this debate. Alok read out some very moving testimonials from people who have to deal with fibromyalgia every day and we support Alok’s call for more GPs to be made aware of the condition and for more fibromyalgia clinics to be set up across the country.”

Anyone interested in attending a support meeting in Reading should email:

© Trinity Mirror Southern


The above originally appeared here.


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