Treatment waiting times reach record high for eating disorder patients

Figures released by the NHS have revealed that people in England are waiting up to 182 days for treatment. Waiting times at mental health services for adults show wide variance depending on where in the country a person is situated. The average waiting time for an adult to receive treatment for an eating disorder can range from 20 days up to 6 months.

Data from 41 out of 55 trusts across England showed that 1,576 people have waited 18 weeks to see a specialist since 2012. 742 people were made to wait 26 weeks whilst 99 people had to wait a year before they could receive treatment.

NHS data also revealed waiting times for outpatient treatment have risen as much as 120% in some areas over the past four years.

Some of the highest average waits were witnessed in Manchester (up to 182 days), with areas such as Kent and Medway seeing long waits too (up to 116 days). At the lower end of the scale, patients living in Dorset, Dudley and north-east London experienced average waiting times of just 20 days.

Five mental health trusts who responded said that they do not have the facilities to provide a service for people with eating disorders at all.  

What is being done about it?

In response to this information, the eating disorder charity Beat said early intervention is critical in overcoming an eating disorder.

A spokesperson from The Department of Health commented:

“People with eating disorders must get high-quality care as early as possible – and while this is happening in some places, there is far too much variation. That is why we’re investing £150 million to develop community services in every area of the country for children and young people.”

In April 2016, the government introduced new targets for mental health but waiting times for adult eating disorder services were not included in this. The Department of Health has said it’s working to cut waiting times by developing a pathway for treating adults with eating disorders.

The target by 2020 is to ensure that 95% of patients are seen within four weeks, or one week for urgent cases.

In the private sector it may be as little as a few days to receive treatment for an eating disorder.

Information on eating disorders

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. 20% of anorexia sufferers will die prematurely from their illness either because of medical complications or suicide.

Bulimia is also associated with severe medical complications and binge-eating sufferers often experience issues related to obesity.

There is no one known cause of eating disorders: the media, society, family and a number of psychological factors are believed to affect weight concerns and promote disordered eating behaviours. Bulimia and binge-eating are known to run in families, which suggest either genetic transmission or shared psychological factors may affect family members. Anorexia is 56% determined by genetics.

Recent figures show more than 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders. Of the known cases, around 11% are estimated to be men.

Eating disorders typically develop during adolescence, but they can affect people of all ages. Anorexia has been seen in people ranging from age 6 to people in their 70s. Outside of the typical age bracket, people are less likely to be appropriately diagnosed due to the lack of understanding and awareness.

Eating disorder statistics in the UK

  • 14 to 25 year-olds are the most affected age group
  • One in every 100 women aged between 15 and 30 are affected by anorexia
  • 40% of people who are affected by an eating disorder are bulimic
  • 10% are anorexic
  • The rest fall into the EDNOS category. This is when someone has worrying eating habits that do not fall into the typical categories - such as binge-eating
  • Research suggests that the earlier treatment is sought, the better the sufferer’s chance of recovery

If you think that you or someone you know could be suffering from an eating disorder, please feel free to visit our Eating Disorder Treatment page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments that are available. 

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