More than 40 children treated in Norwich hospital for anorexia

PUBLISHED: 10:48 31 May 2012

Penny Baily in the grounds of Newmarket House Clinic.

Penny Baily in the grounds of Newmarket House Clinic.

A girl of 11 was among more than 40 children admitted to a Norwich hospital for anorexia in a five-year period.

Findings of the inquiry

The body image inquiry by MPs, which took evidence from academics, the public, industry, charities and other experts, heard that:

* Getting rid of dieting could wipe out 70pc of eating disorders;

* More than 95pc of dieters regain the weight they lost;

*1.6 million people in the UK suffer eating disorders;

* Up to one in five cosmetic surgery patients could suffer from body dysmorphic disorder;

* One in three men would sacrifice a year of life to achieve their ideal body;

* One in five people have been victimised because of their weight;

The report made a series of recommendations targeted at policy-makers, health care professionals, industry and the education sector designed to change public perceptions, attitudes and behavioural patterns.

These include compulsory body image and self-esteem lessons for primary and secondary schools, getting advertisers to commit to running campaigns that reflect consumer desire for “authenticity and diversity”, and re-framing public health messages in “weight-neutral” language.

It also called for a review of broadcast and editorial codes on reporting body-related issues, a review of the evidence base to support the long term efficacy and safety of diets and a separate code of regulations governing cosmetic surgery advertising.

Four boys, aged 13, 14, 15 and 16, and 40 girls, aged between 11 and 18, were treated at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital from 2007 to the end of 2011.

The news comes as a report by MPs says that more than half of the British public suffers from a negative body image, with the problem so acute that girls as young as five now worry about their size and appearance.

According to Reflections on Body Image, co-authored by the MPs and health and education charity Central YMCA, negative body image was seen as an underlying cause of health and relationship problems, a key contributor to low self-esteem and a major barrier to participation in school and progression at work.

The report, published by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image after a three-month public inquiry, identified a growing amount of evidence that body image dissatisfaction was on the increase, with the issue seen to be one affecting all of society regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, body size or shape. Children and adolescents were seen to be more vulnerable to body image concerns, however.

Norwich-based national eating disorders charity Beat is a member of the Campaign for Body Confidence steering group and submitted evidence to the inquiry.

The charity says poor body image and low self esteem are key factors in the development of eating disorders, which is why it is working with toiletries manufacturer Dove to provide free self esteem workshops in schools across the UK.

The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston had no children admitted for anorexia in the five-year period.

The only figures available for The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn were that one 17-year-old girl was treated in 2001 and in 2011 the hospital treated a 16-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy.

The West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds treated 14 children aged 18 and under who had a diagnosis of anorexia between 2008 and 2011, all of which were girls.

They ranged in age from four 12-year-olds to an 18-year-old.

Penny Baily, founder of Norwich’s Newmarket House Clinic – a specialist inpatient hospital for people with severe eating disorders, said: “Severe anorexia is a very serious condition. It’s wrong that people reach such a low level of health before they are admitted for inpatient treatment at a general hospital.

“When patients are admitted to general wards for re-feeding, they are occupying beds that could be used more appropriately by other patients, for example those with renal or heart conditions, and they put a strain on medical and nursing staff who have not been training to treat the complex symptoms of this particular illness.

“For 16 years Newmarket House in Norwich has been accepting NHS-funded patients from Norfolk and other parts of the country. It’s one of the very few residential specialist hospitals for eating disorders.

“If patients are admitted before their weight has dropped to a critical level, staff at this specialist clinic are able to combine careful re-feeding with psychological interventions to enable the patient to sustain recovery. We know through experience that if sufficient investment is made in the treatment of individuals with an eating disorder, even those who are seriously affected can make a full recovery.”

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