New investment in services for eating disorders in children will radically reform their treatment  and pave the way for new waiting time standards.

The investment, which will be rolled out over 5 years, has been secured by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg  in this year’s Autumn Statement, It is part of a continuing campaign by the Lib Dems in government to bring mental health services onto a level playing field with physical care services.

The move comes just a month after research revealed that an increasing number of young people, from as young as 5, are being admitted to hospital for treatment of eating disorders with those aged 14 to 25 most likely to be affected. Mr Clegg’s announcement focused on channelling money from expensive institutional care to local provision which can act as a base for the development of waiting time and access standards for eating disorders for 2016. This will be done by:

  • supporting schemes to get young people with eating disorders and self-harm early access to services in their communities with properly trained teams, making hospital admission a last resort
  • extending access to talking therapies so that children and young people have a choice of evidence-based therapies, a treatment plan agreed with their therapist and monitored and recorded outcomes

This should deliver:

  • swifter access to evidence based community treatment
  • fewer transfers to adult services – reducing up to approximately 70% of those who need to be treated as adults
  • an end to the current cliff edge of transition for young people with eating disorders when they turn 18
  • a more standardised level of provision for children, young people and their families

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“Too often children with mental health problems are being completely let down, with many suffering from eating disorders that go unreported and untreated.

“We know that if an eating disorder goes untreated for more than 3 to 5 years the chances of recovery are greatly reduced, while incidents of self-harm increase.

“That’s why we need to act now to transform the current system, intervening earlier with dedicated and targeted community-based services to ensure that we don’t fail this generation or the next.”

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Taskforce is already undertaking a focused programme of work which will result in recommendations across the spectrum of child and adolescent mental health services. They will report in spring 2015. These proposals take into account their likely recommendations.

Lib Dem Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb, said:

“I want to build a fairer society and that’s why I’m determined to make sure children and young people get the best possible mental health care. That’s why I convened a taskforce of experts to focus on improving services. Better care for eating disorders is a top priority and this investment will help drive up standards so that no child is left without support.”

Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of Young Minds said:

“It is great news indeed to hear that areas of support for children and young people’s mental health will receive additional, desperately needed, resources.
Too often children and young people’s services are overlooked in preference for adult services. Young people make up 20% of the population, yet receive a fraction of the resources available with the terrible consequences we hear about daily in the news.

“We wish to congratulate the government on championing the change, in recognising there is a huge gap to address and in taking the first steps to focus funds where they are so badly needed – for children and young people.

“We trust this is the beginning of a new approach by government and commissioners nationally, and that the Mental Health Taskforce recommendations will receive equal support in March and with future governments.”

Improving access to mental health services

Yesterday’s announcement builds on the Deputy Prime Minister’s long-standing commitment to improve access to mental health services:

About eating disorders

Key statistics on eating disorders:

  • Anorexia kills more people than any other mental health condition
  • between 5% and 20% of people with anorexia will die from it – this is why early intervention is so important
  • people aged between 14 and 25 are the most likely to be affected by an eating disorder
  • there may be as many as 1.1 million people in the UK directly affected

report by the Health and Social Care information Centre (HSCIC) in January this year showed that in the 12 months to October 2013:

  • there was a national rise of 8% in the number of admissions to hospital for an eating disorder
  • the most common age for female admissions was 15 years old (300 out of 2,320) and for males this was 13 years old (50 out of 240)
  • the biggest rise was among young people aged 10 to 19

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