Nov 17

Time to act on eating disorders

BeatI was pleased to be asked this week to host the parliamentary launch of Beat’s new report Delaying for years, denied for months.

Beat started in 1989 as the first national charity for people with eating disorders. Its new report shows that there are long delays in people getting the help they need.

The charity’s findings build on evidence from a survey of people with personal experience of seeking treatment, a survey of carers and their experiences, Freedom of Information requests to NHS mental health Trusts across the country, and interviews with 20 people who have either had or cared for someone who has had an eating disorder.

Its comprehensive research found that the long delays in getting treatment was ‘devastating and widespread, affecting every aspect of people’s lives.’

Around 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. As Beat points out, these are serious mental health problems, not ‘diets gone wrong.’ That is why it is so important that people get the help when they need it, without long delays.

Beat says that people spend, on average, 21 months between their eating disorder symptoms emerging and realising that they might have an eating disorder. They then wait another year before seeking help from the NHS.

In the future, the charity is going to spend more of its precious resources on working with partners to promote awareness of symptoms and encourage people to recognise them earlier.

However, even when people do seek help, there are further delays. Another six months pass between their first GP visit and treatment starting. Adults wait twice as long as children and adolescents before seeking and starting treatment.

That is why the charity is pressing the government to reduce waiting times and to increase the provision of specialist and intensive community treatment options.

Three years ago, in December 2014, the government pledged £150 million for eating disorder services. The Beat report shows that there is still much to do to make sure that money is reaching the frontline and transforming services.

That is why I am calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to use next week’s Budget to ring-fence mental health spending. You can join me in my call by clicking here today.