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London racing ahead in treating eating disorders quickly

The proportion of children with an eating disorder starting urgent treatment within one week remains far higher in London than the rest of the country, according to data analysed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

New figures from NHS England show that while the country is on track overall to meet the national waiting time standard, there is still a postcode lottery for children accessing treatment for eating disorders.

In London, 84 per cent of urgent cases in England began treatment for an eating disorder within one week, but in the Midlands and East of England the proportion was much lower at 72 per cent.

The pattern was the same with routine cases, where in London 88 per cent of cases began treatment within four weeks but in the North of England, just 78 per cent were seen within the one-month target.

By 2020/21, NHS England have said that 95 per cent of children under the age of 19 with an eating disorder should access NICE-approved treatment within a week in urgent cases and within four weeks for routine cases.

Across the country, the proportion of urgent cases being seen within one week is:

  Q1-Q2 2016/17  Q3-Q4 2016/17  Q1-Q2 2017/18 
ENGLAND  61.5% 67.9% 72.1%
NORTH OF ENGLAND  52.2% 65.1% 67.7%
MIDLANDS AND EAST OF ENGLAND  66.9% 67.9% 72.2%
LONDON  74.6% 89.3% 84.4%
SOUTH OF ENGLAND  58.4% 60.8% 72.4%

Across the country, the proportion of routine cases being seen within four weeks is:

  Q1-Q2 2016/17  Q3-Q4 2016/17  Q1-Q2 2017/18 
ENGLAND  66.3% 78.9% 80.6%
NORTH OF ENGLAND  63.4% 76.2% 78.1%
MIDLANDS AND EAST OF ENGLAND  66.2% 80.9% 80.6%
LONDON  62.2% 78.4% 88.3%
SOUTH OF ENGLAND  70.8% 79.2% 79.2%

Professor Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “These new figures show signs of improvement in how long children have to wait to get treatment for an eating disorder – but it is clear that patients are being seen quicker in some parts of the country compared to others.

“Vacancy rates still remain high outside London and it is vital that more Eating Disorder Psychiatrists are recruited to meet with demand.

“The NHS England Dashboard is a helpful window into what young people are experiencing on the ground, which is why we continue to examine it with scrutiny. It is important that we recognise where we are making positive improvements, but that we do not stop until every child has quick access to evidence-based treatment. That means ensuring every CCG meets the Mental Health Investment Standard.”

Dr Ashish Kumar, consultant psychiatrist working in North West England, said: “As a doctor specialising in mental health, I know through my interaction with colleagues in other services that there is a shortage of psychiatry input in Child Eating Disorder Services (CEDS) in the North of England, hence leading to longer waiting times to see a psychiatrist.

“Psychiatry saves lives but we face big challenges in recruiting enough quality staff to create a quality service. We must ensure the additional 30 consultant psychiatry posts for community eating disorders promised by Health Education England are put in place as soon as possible to ensure we help every vulnerable child and teenager.”

Case study

Stephanie Guidera is classical singer from Liverpool, who has lived with Eating Disorders and Dyspraxia: “I was seventeen when I developed Bulimia and I hid my symptoms for a long while but when I eventually got the right help, it made a massive difference to my life and I was able to get my professional singing career back on track.”

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