Dozens of young people treated for eating disorders in Sheffield during pandemic

Dozens of young people were treated by Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust for eating disorders as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the mental health of the nation's children, new figures reveal.

By Claire Lewis
Sunday, 29th August 2021, 3:07 pm

The NHS' mental health director said the health service has seen “greater numbers than ever before" as figures show a stark national increase in youngsters being treated for potentially life-threatening conditions like anorexia and bulimia.

NHS England data shows 41 children and young people began treatment for eating disorders at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust between July 2020 and June 2021.

That was up from 30 over the same period a year earlier and the 31 seen in 2018-19, before the pandemic hit.

New figures show the number of children treated for eating disorders in South Yorkshire as the pandemic took its toll on young people (Photo: PA)

Of the patients who began treatment last year, 13 had been the subject of urgent referrals, compared to four the year before and five in 2018-19.

NHS rules state 95 per cent of urgent cases must begin treatment within a week, while routinely referred patients should be seen within four weeks.

Tom Quinn, of eating disorder charity Beat, said the pandemic had a “massive impact” on those with eating disorders and their loved ones.

He said anxiety, isolation and a lack of support had contributed to people developing disorders for the first time or relapsing, adding: “Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, and accessing specialist help as soon as possible leads to the best chances of making a full recovery.

“Every person with an eating disorder should be able to access high quality treatment in their local area as quickly as possible.

“More children and young people with eating disorders are being treated by the NHS than ever before, but demand is increasing at an even faster rate, and it is particularly concerning to see urgent referrals rising.”

NHS England's mental health director, Claire Murdoch, said the pandemic had taken its toll on the country's mental health but that staff had responded rapidly to treat youngsters with eating disorders, with the aid of additional government funding and the roll out of dedicated services across England.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said eating disorders could have a devastating impact on sufferers and their families, adding that the Government is committed to ensuring young people in need of help get it.

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