We asked Dr Lalitha De Silva, Consultant Psychiatrist and Eating Disorder Lead, for an update on the current situation for those needing treatment for an eating disorder.
The incidence of eating disorders is steadily rising particularly in girls under the age of 18. The incidence of eating disorders in men have risen by about 70%.
The number of admissions to hospital of young people with eating disorders has doubled over the past 6 years, even though the government has set targets to ensure people have ready access to services, in most areas of the country these targets are not being met. There are numerous reports of people having to travel long distances to be admitted to hospital. This causes further distress to families as they are often not able to visit their loved ones.
The good news is that people are beginning to realise that eating disorders are serious illnesses. Many celebrities have come forward and shared their experiences , this has raised awareness and made eating disorders more acceptable. This may encourage people to ask for help earlier which is always beneficial.
The current practice in the NHS is of patients having to be very ill or at a particularly low weight to access help is counterproductive. There is very good evidence to show that early intervention results in a good prognosis and more help needs to be available for people who seek treatment early in their illness. Families very often feel helpless and unsupported and need expert intervention to understand the problem and receive appropriate assistance.
Young people are particularly vulnerable so more support and guidance needs to be made available for schools, colleges and universities to enable young people to access help at an early stage. Training for teachers to be able to spot the signs and encourage the young person to talk to their peers. parents or GP.
The independent sector has an important role in bridging the gaps in service and providing a readily accessible early intervention service for people with eating disorders to prevent them from waiting for months to access treatment in the NHS.
If you have concerns about your self or a friend in relation to an eating disorder, please visit your GP in the first instance. We will require a letter of referral before we can arrange an assessment.
Further information can be found https://cardinalclinic.co.uk/treatments/#EatingDisorders and also at the UK’s leading eating disorder charity https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk