What's being done to support eating disorder sufferers after an 84% rise in cases?

·2-min read
Photo credit: Mindful Media - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mindful Media - Getty Images

New guidelines for medical professionals are being brought in to help those with – or at risk of – developing an eating disorder. It comes after hospital admissions for people with eating disorders rose by 84% in the last five years, leading experts to question how they can better support those suffering. According to the latest NHS figures, 24,268 people were admitted to hospital with an eating disorder in England in 2020-2021.

"To tackle the serious harms, up to and including death, associated with eating disorders it is crucial that more is done to identify them at the earliest stage possible so that the appropriate care and treatment can be provided," The Royal College of Psychiatrists said in a statement explaining the new guidelines.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Dasha Nicholls, an eating disorder psychiatrist for children and young people who worked on the new guidelines, said it's crucial that health care professionals urgently put them into practice to stop the eating disorder epidemic "in its tracks".

"They are mental health disorders, and we shouldn't underestimate how serious they are," she emphasised, referencing that eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating are not a lifestyle choice and can affect people of any age and gender. "Even though anorexia nervosa is often referred to as the deadliest mental health condition - most deaths are preventable with early treatment and support," she added.

Photo credit: Photographee.eu - Getty Images
Photo credit: Photographee.eu - Getty Images

In addition to the guidelines, the Department of Health and Social Care in England announced a £53 million investment in children and young people's eating disorder services with the aim to increase capacity in 70 community support teams across the UK. On top of that, a further £79 million is to be invested in children's mental health services in the hopes that at least 2,000 more children and young people will have access to eating disorder services.

"Front-line staff have been working tirelessly to support as many people as possible, but they cannot do so without adequate staffing and funding, which the government must make a priority," Tom Quinn, Beat's Director of External Affairs, told the BBC.

If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s health, you can contact Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677 or beateatingdisorders.org.uk.

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