The Medical Research Council’s secret files on ME/CFS: Margaret Williams


Ed: Related links:

National Archives site

If you go to these URLs, below, scroll each page for content and then open all the links under “Context” on each of the parent pages, and their child pages, there is information about the nature of some of the material archived:

Piece reference FD 9/3781
The International Institute for Peaceful Change, Hythe, Kent: correspondence concerning research into myalgic encephalom…

Piece reference FD 23/4553
Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)/postviral fatigue syndrome (PFS) : papers and journal articles; correspondence and enquiries with MRC replies. …

Item reference FD 23/4553/1
Closed extracts: 40 pages (the open file is available at FD 23/4553).

Series reference BN 141
Department of Health and Social Security: Medical Policy


or open MS Word document here:  The MRC secret files on ME (v2)

(Ed: Note that the font size of this document has been increased from that of the original, as supplied, and therefore page numbers will not correspond with those of the PDF.)

Permission to Repost

The Medical Research Council’s secret files on ME/CFS

Margaret Williams

10 December 2009

It is an established fact that the MRC has a secret file on ME that contains records and correspondence since at least 1988, which, co-incidentally, is about the time that Simon Wessely began to deny the existence of ME. The file is held in the UK Government National Archives at Kew (formerly known as the Public Record Office) and was understood to be closed until 2023, but this closed period has been extended until 2071, at the end of which most people currently suffering from ME will be conveniently dead:

As one puzzled ME sufferer recently noted: “why on earth have a 73 year embargo on these documents on an illness where a load of neurotic people, mostly women, wrongly think they are physically ill  ill?”

(; 14th October 2009)

The MRC’s secret files on ME/CFS are closed (ie. unavailable to the public) for an unusually lengthy period of 83 years. The standard closure period is 30 years but, as in the case of these files on ME/CFS, the standard closure period may be extended.

The 30-year rule usually applies to documents that are exempt from release under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and include, for example, documents concerning the formulation of government policy, documents related to defence, to national security, to the economy, and documents that are considered very confidential.

It may be recalled that during the life of the Chief Medical Officer’s Working Group on ME/CFS (1998-2002), lay members were ordered not to discuss the deliberations and were even threatened with the Official Secrets Act, for which no explanation was proffered. A letter dated 16th June 2000 from Mrs Helen Wiggins at the Department of Health NHS Executive Headquarters in Leeds was sent to lay members of the Working Group; this letter stressed that it had become increasingly important that any documents or information, in whole or in part, that might contribute to the report must be kept confidential and to this end, members of the Working Group might be compelled to sign the Official Secrets Act. This was followed up by a letter dated 23rd October 2000 from Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health (ref: POH (6) 5380/83), confirming that the information held by the Working Group might in certain circumstances indeed be covered by the Official Secrets Act.

If the psychiatric lobby which dominated that Working Group was so confident that it was correct about ME/CFS, why the need to force the suppression of opposing views by resorting to threats of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act in a Working Group that had nothing to do with State security but was supposed to be acting simply in the best interests of sick people? This was in marked contrast to the “Key working principles” set out in the first Briefing Note of March 1999, which stated: “The Group must have maximum ‘transparency’ ie. as much information about its activities to be distributed as possible to all potential interested parties”.

One can but wonder how the consideration of ME/CFS could rank as a state secret and of what, precisely, was the Department of Health so afraid that it even considered the use of such draconian powers? For the record, Mrs Wiggins was replaced by Robert Harkins and it was he who sent the letter dated 25th May 2004 (ref: TO1056746) in which he stated that the then new centres for CFS “will be headed up exclusively by psychiatrists” , which was deemed to be more evidence of Government policy on “CFS/ME”.

People wishing to access documents archived at Kew are able to make an application to access documents that are not redacted or closed, but the procedure is lengthy. Prior notificaton and advance booking are required; people must remove their coats/jackets and leave them, together with personal possessions including handbags, in a locker with a see-through door for which a numbered key is provided; proof of identity is mandatory and every person is newly photographed on arrival.

Legitimate access has been obtained to some of these archived documents about ME/CFS and they make interesting reading, for example…

Read on here:

or open MS Word document here:  The MRC secret files on ME (v2)