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HealthRecord number of children on NHS waiting lists for eating disorder treatment...

Record number of children on NHS waiting lists for eating disorder treatment amid Covid pandemic

Record numbers of children and young people are waiting for treatment for eating disorders amid the coronavirus pandemic, official figures show.

There were 207 under-19s in England waiting for ‘urgent’ care for conditions such as bulimia and anorexia by the end of June.

It is the highest number since NHS records began in 2016 and more than triple the amount at the same time last year. 

Nearly a third (31 per cent) had been waiting for up to three months for care, while a smaller proportion (11 per cent) has been waiting even longer. 

A further 1,832 young Britons were on waiting lists for routine care for eating disorders by June, up from just 441 a year ago and the most ever.  




Experts warned the pandemic and lockdowns had fuelled a rise in the conditions, by disrupting their schooling and social lives.  

It comes amid growing evidence that the Covid crisis has triggered a silent mental health epidemic, particularly in the young. 

Separate data last month showed twice as many children and young adults were referred to mental health services in England last year as cases hit a record high.  

Record numbers of children and young people are waiting for treatment for eating disorders. There were 207 under-19s in England waiting for 'urgent' care for conditions including bulimia and anorexia by the end of June - the highest number since records began in 2016 and more than triple the amount at the same time last year (shown)

Record numbers of children and young people are waiting for treatment for eating disorders. There were 207 under-19s in England waiting for 'urgent' care for conditions including bulimia and anorexia by the end of June - the highest number since records began in 2016 and more than triple the amount at the same time last year (shown)

Record numbers of children and young people are waiting for treatment for eating disorders. There were 207 under-19s in England waiting for ‘urgent’ care for conditions including bulimia and anorexia by the end of June – the highest number since records began in 2016 and more than triple the amount at the same time last year (shown)

The Government has committed to treating 95 per cent of under-19s within one week for urgent cases and within four weeks for routine cases by the end of this year.




Yet the NHS England data shows that just 60 per cent of youngsters with eating disorders are currently being seen in that time, down from 87 per cent last June.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said services were struggling to provide timely treatment for youngsters with eating disorders due to ‘overwhelming’ demand. 

Limited capacity due to social distancing is said to be partly to blame, as well as reduced services during lockdowns. 

Dr Agnes Ayton, chair of its faculty of eating disorders psychiatry, added: ‘The pandemic has had a huge impact on children and young people with disruption to their schooling, social lives and home lives.

Mental health referrals spiked by a fifth during lockdowns

Mental health referrals in the UK have spiked by nearly a fifth on the back of the coronavirus crisis, analysis suggests.




Around 300,000 Britons were recommended for treatment in March this year, a rise of 18 per cent compared to February 2020 – a month before the first lockdown.

Referrals more than doubled in hardest-hit areas in England, including Leeds, Redbridge and Greater Preston, according to the analysis by the BBC.  

Urgent referrals to crisis care teams – which include suicidal patients – have also risen 15 per cent in the same time period, nationally. 

However, the impact of the pandemic on mental health referrals in England seems less clear when looking at the entire year. There were roughly 3million in the 12 months to March 2021, about the same as the previous year. 

Charities fear patients have suffered in silence and put off coming forward for care during the pandemic, and warn there could be huge increases in referrals to come.




Despite the spike in referrals this March, the number of patients actually receiving care was 9 per cent below pre-pandemic levels. 

Limited capacity due to social distancing is said to be partly to blame, as well as reduced services during lockdowns.

One suicidal mother who tried to take her own life last spring said she felt ‘abandoned’ by the NHS when it shut down services to focus on Covid in the first wave. 

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‘Many young people have not received support early enough, causing their eating disorders to become much worse and harder to treat.

‘Delays to treatment can put lives at risk. Services are struggling with soaring demand, fewer beds because of social distancing, and an ongoing shortage of specialist doctors.’




An estimated 1.25 million people have an eating disorder in the UK, with other behaviours including binge eating, purging and excessive fasting or exercising. 

The NHS England figures also show that while the number of patients waiting for care has reached record levels, more are being treated than ever before.

The number of patients starting urgent eating disorder treatment between April and June was 852, compared to 328 during the same period of 2020.

But the proportion of children and young people starting urgent treatment within one week fell to 61 per cent, down from a record high of 88 per cent in the same period last year.

The number of children and young people starting routine treatment for eating disorders rose to its highest level on record at 2,600 between April and June, compared to 1,347 during the same period in 2020.




And while 73 per cent of patients started routine treatment within four weeks between April and June, this was down from 87 per cent in the same period of 2020.

Dr Ayton added: ‘The Government made an ambitious commitment on waiting times, but the pandemic has set us back years.

‘Urgent action is needed to ensure children and young people with eating disorders get the help they need, when they need it.’

NHS England said the health service is treating more children and young people with eating disorders than ever and during the pandemic the data has shown a surge in demand.

Community eating disorder services over the last year have continued to offer treatment using remote ways working to deliver individual and family interventions alongside face-to-face appointments, it added.




Claire Murdoch, national director for mental health in England, said: ‘The pandemic has taken its toll on the country’s mental health and staff have responded rapidly to treat children and young people with eating disorders.

‘Thanks to additional funding of £79 million this year on top of dedicated services already rolled out in every part of the country, the NHS has treated more people with an eating disorder than ever before.’

Source: Daily Mail | Health News

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