More than a quarter of children with eating disorders are waiting too long for treatment

Stock photo of a person weighing themselves. Photo: Getty

Stock photo of a person weighing themselves. Photo: Getty - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than a quarter of children with eating disorders seen by the region's mental health trust are waiting too long to begin their treatment, with some having to wait months for care.

Leading mental health charities have warned a 'postcode lottery' is leaving many youngsters struggling to access the care they need, with 'patchy' services leading to 'significant local and regional variation' in waiting times.

NHS guidance says patients should begin treatment within four weeks of referral, or within one week for urgent cases.

The latest figures from NHS England however show only 71pc of children and under 19s referred to Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) began their treatment within those windows in the 12 months to June, putting its performance below the national average.

In the case of urgent referrals, 68pc of patients were seen within a week.

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Some patients were left waiting months for help, with 11 youngsters waiting 12 or more weeks.

But Peter Devlin, NSFT operations director in Suffolk, said there had been national and local increase in demand.

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Figures showed the number of cases year on year rose from 190 to 212.

He said the there had been a 'significant rise' in the number of people being seen within four weeks by 1.92pc.

The number of urgent cases seen within a week had risen to 85.71pc.

He said: 'The figures are a positive move in the right direction, particularly in relation to our treatment of the most urgent cases. We remain determined to make further improvements to ensure our young people are receiving timely access to the right specialist care and treatment.'

Director of external affairs at Norwich-based national charity Beat, Tom Quinn, said: 'While Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust are seeing more children and young people within target waiting times, it is concerning that they appear not to be performing as well as services in other areas.'

Mr Quinn said Beat was concerned an additional £30 million per year nationally given by the government to meet waiting times targets was being used for other things.

He added: 'The NHS and the government must do all they can to ensure that the funding goes to the frontline services where it is needed.'

He said: 'These waiting times standards only apply to children and young people in England, but adults have to wait longer than young people at every stage before receiving treatment and the government must introduce waiting times standards for adults, too.

'Waiting times standards help sufferers who have already been referred for treatment but it still takes nearly three years, on average, for someone to realise they have an eating disorder and visit a GP. We know that the sooner someone gets treatment, the better their chances of recovery, so the government must do more to ensure people are able to seek help fast.'

A spokesman for the Norfolk and Waveney clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) said they were asked by the government to allocate an extra £544,000 to boost the capacity of specialist eating disorder teams, and that amount was allocated to that in full.

The spokesman added a further £400,000 had been put in for 2017 - 2019.

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