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Clegg promises £150m funding for children with eating disorders

This week’s Autumn Statement will include a commitment to invest £150m in treatment for children and young people with eating disorders. 

Deputy PM Nick Clegg said the investment over the next five years has been secured as part of an ongoing campaign to put mental health services on a par with physical care. 

The investment will focus on channelling money from expensive institutional care to local provision and act as a base for the development of waiting time and access standards for eating disorders by 2016. 

This will include supporting schemes to get young people with eating disorders and self-harm early access to services in their communities with properly trained teams, making hospital admission a last resort. 

In addition, the money will extend access to talking therapies so that children and young people have a choice of evidence-based therapies, a treatment plan agreed with their therapist and monitored and recorded outcomes. 

It comes after a report by the Health and Social Care information Centre in January found an 8% rise in hospital admissions for eating disorders in the 12 months to October 2013, with the largest rise among youngsters aged 10-19. The most common age for female admissions was 15 (300 out of 2,320 cases) and for males 13 (50 out of 240 cases). 

Sarah Brennan, chief executive of the Young Minds charity, said: “It is great news indeed to hear that areas of support for children and young people’s mental health will receive additional, desperately needed, resources. 

“Too often children and young people’s services are overlooked in preference for adult services. Young people make up 20% of the population, yet receive a fraction of the resources available with the terrible consequences we hear about daily in the news. 

“We trust this is the beginning of a new approach by government and commissioners nationally, and that the Mental Health Taskforce recommendations will receive equal support in March and with future governments.” 

Last week, Clegg said he would chair a new Mental Health Taskforce to bring mental health services issues “out of the shadows” and to change “outdated attitudes”. The taskforce, which will include Cabinet members from across the Coalition government, will examine how mental health services for young people can be improved and what help can be provided for getting people back into work. 

Clegg said: “Too often children with mental health problems are being completely let down, with many suffering from eating disorders that go unreported and untreated. 

“That’s why we need to act now to transform the current system, intervening earlier with dedicated and targeted community-based services to ensure that we don’t fail this generation or the next. 

“The Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Taskforce is already undertaking a focused programme of work which will result in recommendations across the spectrum of child and adolescent mental health services. They will report in spring 2015. These proposals take into account their likely recommendations.” 

The government added that the latest proposals will deliver swifter access to evidence-based community treatment; fewer transfers to adult services – reducing up to approximately 70% of those who need to be treated as adults; and provide a more standardised level of provision for children, young people and their families. 

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Eating disorders among children and young people cause severe health problems and, if left untreated, sometimes lead to death. Of all the mental health illnesses, anorexia has the highest mortality rate. Given the nature of these disorders and the efforts that many take to conceal their condition, it often takes too long before the child or young person starts to receive help. 

“There's a clear need for early detection and diagnosis. It's well-established that earlier interventions for children and young people with eating disorders produce better outcomes, which is why this increased investment and focus on the issue is good news.” 

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of Beats, an eating disorder charity, added: “In this, our 25th Anniversary Year, we have been campaigning for no more preventable deaths from eating disorders. 

“This funding for treatment will help make that call to action a reality. Now, the Government must ensure that all GPs are up to date and up to speed on diagnosing eating disorders, so that young people can get referred as quickly as possible for this treatment. It will save lives!” 

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