by Sasha Nimmo

In December last year, a petition signed by 702 people was sent to Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW) Vice Chancellor Prof Ian Jacobs;the Mason Foundation; the federal health minister and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) asking them to stop UNSW’s trial of an education module for health professionals. The trial module treats chronic fatigue syndrome patients with graded exercise therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (GET/CBT), despite the evidence showing these therapies have no benefit and may cause permanent harm.

This morning I spoke to the UNSW Vice Chancellor’s office who said they have received and noted the petition and “the matter is under investigation”.

The Vice Chancellor’s office could not say whether this was an internal investigation or whether they would be seeking external expertise. They could not say when the investigation was likely to be concluded. The office’s Cassandra Williams said it would depend on the outcome of the investigation as to whether they would make a public statement.

They did say they would write to me after the investigation finished. 

What was the petition?
The petition asked UNSW to stop the trial and asked the Mason Foundation, NHRMC and the Health Minister, who provided funding to the trial, to withdraw funding. See the response from the Mason Foundation and the Health Minister.

The trial registration says “despite GET and CBT being widely acknowledged as best-practice interventions for CFS, the great majority of patients in Australia are not receiving these appropriate evidence-based interventions. Recent studies have demonstrated that the reason for this documented gap between research and practice is largely due to practicing health professionals lacking the knowledge and skills to provide appropriate care. ” It does not specify which ‘recent studies’ and it is not accurate that it is ‘widely acknowledged as best-practice’.

It poses an international risk, as UNSW plan to “disseminate the treatment to other centers nationally and internationally”, according to information the University provided to the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Thank you again for signing this petition and for your comments.

Comments from people who signed the petition