New research from the eating disorder (ED) charity Beat shows people are struggling to access eating disorder treatment.
Beats research shows that around 20% of people struggling with eating disorders have to wait more than a year for help. More than a third of people who seek help end up waiting for over 6 months. As many experts have pointed out, this is rather like taking a wait and see attitude with Cancer.
Just like physical illnesses, mental illness becomes progressively worse. The longer someone waits the more entrenched their eating disorder becomes. If help is offered early the chance of relapse falls from 63% to 33%. That makes quick action a matter of life and death for some people with EDs. It also means fast treatment could save the NHS money. Currently they are spending around £8 billion for EDs. Beat beleives this number could be reduced significantly if treatment was administered more quickly.
Beat has said that people currently seeking help for eating disorders with the NHS face slow referral times, a number of artificial barriers and perverse incentives. These issues are not present in private care which means many people are looking to the private sector for help.
Currently people seeking treatment for an eating disorder with the NHS may have to wait until there is an available bed or travel long distances to find an opening at a treatment centre. This creates a backlog of people waiting for treatment and means by the time treatment is offered, many people need serious help and intervention.
What makes this worse is that the more entrenched an eating disorder becomes, the longer it takes to treat. This all means that the lack of eating disorder treatment available on the NHS not only makes the problem worse, it makes each eating disorder treated a more difficult case.
In the last year, the government has announced they will be spending an extra £150 million on treatment but this may not be enough to sold the problem a lack of care has created.