‘Potentially devastating’: Dozens of children left waiting for eating disorder treatment

PUBLISHED: 09:44 22 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:44 22 August 2020

Dozens of children in Norfolk and Suffolk are waiting more than four weeks for treatment for eating disorders. PHOTO: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Dozens of children in Norfolk and Suffolk are waiting more than four weeks for treatment for eating disorders. PHOTO: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Dozens of children with eating disorders are waiting too long for treatment in Norfolk and Suffolk, despite new NHS targets imposed earlier this year.

Rob Mack. Photo: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS FTRob Mack. Photo: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS FT

Guidelines say patients should begin treatment within four weeks of referral in 2020-21, or within one week for urgent cases.

But NHS England data shows just 83pc of children and under 19s referred to Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) were seen within four weeks between July 2019 and June this year, meaning 27 waited longer for treatment.

The figures are below the 95pc target set for all NHS trusts and other healthcare providers.

Waiting times for urgent cases also fall below the target, with only 17 of 45 urgent cases - 38pc - being seen within one week.

NSFT Specialist services director Robert Mack said: “We strive to offer timely and appropriate access for these young people. However, we recognise that we are not consistently achieving the national 95pc across Norfolk and Suffolk.

“The main reason for this are instances where a patient or family are unable to make the initial appointment offered due to their availability.

“We continue to ensure we offer appropriate care to urgent cases and aim to continue performance improvements on routine cases.”

Across the country, more youngsters with eating disorders are now starting treatment in England than a year ago.

In the year to June, 7,840 patients started treatment – up from 7,621 over the previous 12 months.

NSFT, however, saw cases fall during this time, from 910 to 869.

Mental health charity YoungMinds warned the consequences of leaving young people in limbo can be “potentially devastating.”

Director of campaigns Tom Madders said it was “encouraging” many young people were able to access treatment during lockdown.

“However, there is real variation across the country, with some areas already meeting the waiting times standard and others falling behind,” he added.

“This means that some children and young people will be waiting a lot longer, with potentially devastating consequences.

“As we move into the next stage of the pandemic, it’s important for children and young people to have access to the right information and support.”

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