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Eating disorder hospital admissions double in five years

PUBLISHED: 12:06 05 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:06 05 January 2020

Hospital admissions for eating disorders has nearly doubled in five years in Norfolk. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Hospital admissions for eating disorders has nearly doubled in five years in Norfolk. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The number of hospital admissions in Norfolk for people with eating disorders has nearly doubled in just five years.

Sarah Middleton, 63, from Norwich, who has suffered with anorexia for 30 years. Photo: Neil DidsburySarah Middleton, 63, from Norwich, who has suffered with anorexia for 30 years. Photo: Neil Didsbury

Data from NHS Digital show there were 440 admissions for disorders such as anorexia and bulimia in 2018/19, compared to just 224 in 2013/14.

The figures have today been described as 'worrying' by health campaigners and as evidence more cash needs to be pumped into mental health treatment.

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Norwich-based eating disorder charity Beat, said too many people were still waiting too long for treatment for disorders, which may explain why more cases lead to hospital admissions.

But he said the increase in admissions could also be due to "improvement in the ability of healthcare professionals to identify eating disorders".

Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity based in Norwich. Picture: BeatBeat, the UK’s eating disorder charity based in Norwich. Picture: Beat

Mr Quinn added: "Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible and the sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full and sustained recovery."

The Norfolk Community Eating Disorder Service (NCEDS) for adults aged over 18 is run by the Cambridge and Peterborough Foundation Trust (CPFT), while the service for children and adolescents is run by the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT).

The number of hospital admissions across all age groups has been steadily increasing year-on-year, from 261 admissions in 2014/15 to 281 in 2015/16 and 373 in 2016/17.

Sarah Middleton, 63, from Norwich, who has suffered with anorexia for more than 30 years, said patients needed intensive care following hospital treatment to reduce the risk of relapse.

"You go from 24/7 care into nothing," she said. "Once you reach your weight goal that's the most dangerous part - you might look normal but it's frightening when your body has changed, you've very vulnerable. 
"That's when intensive care is needed."

In Norfolk there has been particular concern in recent years around the wait times for treatment facing young people, with some waiting months for care. The mental health trust in Norfolk and Waveney is among one of the worst in England for long waiting times for high-risk patients with eating disorders.

Commenting on the national picture, Emma Thomas, chief executive of the charity Young Minds, said the latest figures were "worrying".

She added: "While there have been some improvements in community care for young people with eating disorders in recent years, it can still be difficult for children and young people to get the help they need before they reach crisis point.

"Getting early support for an eating disorder can prevent problems from escalating, meaning young people are more likely to fully recover.

"The government must make prevention and early intervention a priority for every child struggling with their mental health, to ensure that they get help as soon as they need it."

South Norfolk CCG has consistently seen the highest number of admissions - at 279, it is more than three times as high as Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG which had 90 admissions in 2018/19.

While no data was available for North Norfolk CCG, Norwich had the least number of admissions with 15 or fewer over the years.

In West Norfolk, the number of admissions increased by 50pc year-on-year, from 50 in 2017/18 to 75 in 2018/19.

Nationally, there were 19,040 admissions for eating disorders in 2018/19, up from 16,558 the year before and 13,885 in 2016/17.

A spokeswoman for NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, Norfolk and Waveney said: "Eating disorders are complex conditions and we continue to work closely with our partners to ensure people get the treatment, help and support they require.

"At times this care may necessitate admission to hospital as the most appropriate course of treatment. We continue to develop opportunities for early intervention and prevention of eating disorders so that people can access help and support at the earliest opportunity."

Are you worried about someone you know?

Here are some things advised by eating disorder charity Beat when talking to someone you're worried about:

-Choose a place where you both feel safe and won't be disturbed.

-Try not to centre the conversation around food or weight.

-Mention things that have concerned you, but try to avoid listing too many things as they may feel like they have been 'watched.'

-If they tell you there's nothing wrong, even if they seem convincing, keep an eye on them and keep in mind that they may be ill even if they don't realise it.

-If they acknowledge that they need help, encourage them to seek it as quickly as possible. Offer to go with them to the GP if they would find that helpful.

-You can read about the symptoms of eating disorders at www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/types

- If you're worried about your own or someone else's eating health, Beat can be reached on 0808 801 0677

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