Young person talking to a health professional

Specialist treatment for young people with eating disorders

Young people who suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are set to receive rapid access to specialist NHS treatment across England.

The NHS has announced that it will upsurge an early intervention service to support young people in the early stages of eating disorders.

The new service is set to spread across 18 sites throughout the country and build on a successful scheme shown to help 16-25-year olds in London, with one patient calling it a ‘gold standard’ of care.

As eating disorders cause serious physical and mental health problems which can last decades, the expanded service will target care to those who have been living with a condition for fewer than three years, to tackle problems before they intensify.

Teens or young adults coming forward who would benefit from treatment can be contacted within 48 hours and with treatment beginning as soon as two weeks later.

The approach is based on a successful model developed and trialled at King’s College London and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, with support from the Health Foundation. It lessens wait times and improves patients’ outcomes.

The investment in the early intervention, First Episode Rapid Early Intervention for Eating Disorders (FREED), service forms part of the NHS Long Term Plan commitment to provide an additional £1 billion a year by 2023/24 to expand and improve community mental health care so adults, including those with an eating disorder, can get earlier access to care, as close to home as possible.

Professor Tim Kendall, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health, said: “Young people who are struggling with an eating disorder stand to benefit significantly with the roll out of this new NHS service which will provide access to early intervention, treatment and support.

“These services have already proven to be effective and the expansion in care we have announced today will support our ambition to meet the rising demand for support to tackle young people’s ill health.

“And although we are in the throes of a pandemic, the NHS continues to offer face-to-face appointments and inpatient care for patients with eating disorders when needed, while providing the option of phone and video consultations and online support where appropriate.”

Nadine Dorries, Minister for Health, said: “Eating disorders can have a devastating impact on individuals and their families, and can very sadly be fatal. I am committed to ensuring young people have access to the services and treatment they need which can ultimately save lives.

“Early intervention is vital, so it’s great to see this programme, which will get young people access to help when they need it, being rolled out in trusts across the country.”

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