Mobile phone entrepreneur John Caudwell has pledged his own money in a bid to spark a Government-funded programme into Lyme disease research.
Phones 4u founder Mr Caudwell has offered “significant funds” to the Department of Health if it commissions “desperately needed” work into the “terribly debilitating illness”.
He made the promise in a letter to Jeremy Hunt on Monday in a bid to spur the Health Secretary into action.
Mr Caudwell, who has been diagnosed with Lyme disease, has not put a figure on how much he will spend, but says he is determined to do whatever it takes.
“My pledge today aims to end the apathy and give Jeremy Hunt no more excuses for failing to take the action required to help Lyme disease victims,” he said.
“People have been left out in the cold and abandoned by their health service. For this to be the situation in modern day Britain is utterly appalling.”
In his letter to Mr Hunt, the Caudwell LymeCo Charity chairman Mr Caudwell said he hopes his offer will remove the “clear reluctance in your department to improve the NHS’ woeful lack of understanding” of the illness.
He wrote: “I hope that this pledge can act as a catalyst. However it is down to the Government to ultimately take the lead and deliver this desperately needed research – it is your duty and responsibility.
“The Government has woefully under-resourced this research for far too long. Thousands feel abandoned by the NHS.
“Victims of this devastating disease have been totally ignored by their health service, in what is tantamount to negligence and a dereliction of duty.
“My commitment is intended to instigate the urgently needed action that successive governments have repeatedly failed to take. People are dying with little being done to help them.”
Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi which is carried by infected ticks.
The main symptom is a distinctive rash that looks similar to a bullseye on a dartboard.
Other signs include flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, fever or chills, muscle and joint pain, headaches and neck stiffness.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are determined to have the best evidence-based understanding and treatment of Lyme disease to help those who suffer from this terrible disease, which is why we commissioned reviews of evidence on diagnosis, treatment and transmission of Lyme disease, which were published in December 2017.
“Public Health England regularly holds GP training days and NICE recently published new guidelines for care to ensure people have prompt diagnosis and treatment.
“We will reply to Mr Caudwell’s letter in due course.”