Eating disorder charity calls on government to make changes to prevent deaths after Averil Hart tragedy

Averil Hart, who died aged 19 in 2012

Averil Hart, who died aged 19 in 2012


A Norfolk-based eating disorder charity has called for waiting time targets to treat adult sufferers after the death of a Norwich student.

Averil Hart, who died in 2012 after suffering from anorexia nervosa. Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILYAveril Hart, who died in 2012 after suffering from anorexia nervosa. Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Anorexic University of East Anglia (UEA) student Averil Hart, 19, died just 10 weeks into her first term at university in 2012.

And a report released on Friday detailed how she had been failed - in some way - by every single part of the NHS she had come into contact with.

As part of the investigation into her death and the search for answers by Averil’s family, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) found “widespread problems with eating disorder services in the NHS”.

Beat charity CEO Andrew Radford.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYBeat charity CEO Andrew Radford. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

MORE: Suffolk father’s open letter criticises ombudsman over investigation into death of UEA student Averil Hart

One of the ombudsman’s key recommendations was the need for adult eating disorders services to achieve parity with child and adolescent services. Whilst under 19s have been promised treatment within four weeks of a referral, with £150m in government money funding it, there are currently no waiting times targets for adults need specialist treatment.

National eating disorder charity Beat, which is based in Norwich, said this left “many very ill people waiting too long for the treatment they desperately need”.

MORE: Family searching for answers three-and-a-half years after death of UEA student

The charity said: “We know that people delay for years before seeking treatment. If their 19th birthday passes during that time, they miss the chance to be treated quickly. This is wrong.”

Beat is now calling on the government to extend the waiting time targets for all ages, and has launched a petition to be handed to the health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Andrew Radford, Beat chief executive said: “The government has set targets to reduce the time children in England spend waiting for treatment, but not for adults.

MORE: Anorexic UEA student, 19, failed by medics, says report

“Research by Beat has found that sufferers face an average three-and-a-half-year delay between symptoms developing and treatment starting, even though the likelihood of a prolonged and fast recovery significantly decreases three years after falling ill. Delayed treatment contributes to the NHS spending £4.6bn a year treating eating disorders.

“The government must invest in promoting the importance of seeking help for an eating disorder as soon as possible, so permitting early treatment which would prevent deaths like Averil’s.”

To sign the petition, click here.

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