Youngsters with eating disorders less likely to be admitted to hospital

Fewer young people with eating disorders are ending up in hospital
Fewer young people with eating disorders are ending up in hospital
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Fewer young people with eating disorders are ending up in hospital thanks to extra funding and more support.

Young people suffering with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders are getting more support in the community rather than having to be admitted as hospital in-patients.

The number of in-patient days for Sheffield children and young people has fallen from 483 in 2014/15 to 145 in 2016/17.

South Yorkshire Eating Disorder Association (SYEDA) is one of several organisations which works at a community level to support young people and their families.

It says extra funding from the Government has been a huge help. Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced £150m would be invested over five years.

The funding focused on helping young people access services in the community with properly trained teams so hospital admissions were a last resort.

SYEDA says the funding gave Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) a dedicated pot of money which enabled it to create a team work specifically on this issue.

Its chief executive Chris Hood said: “We have counselling sessions and clinics in schools and it means sometimes we can meet young people when they are in the very early stages of an eating disorder and we may only need to give guidance and advice. If the eating disorder is more problematic, we can refer them to CAMHS.

“Another change which has helped is a new self-referral scheme. Previously young people had to have a GP involved before being able to access services but now they can ring up directly. It’s really important to empower young people, especially if there is fear of family upset.”

There is still more work to be done to tackle the problem. Mr Hood added: “It’s difficult to put a figure on the number of people with eating disorders because it can be hidden and it can be misdiagnosed.

“We know around 20 percent of eating disorders are anorexia, while bulimia and binge eating are 40 percent each.

“Some young people may be formally identified but a lot who may be struggling never step forward. The funding means we can make people aware of the services available to them so they can find help earlier.”

Sheffield Children’s Hospital says it actively works with other groups to create a “seamless service” to make it easier for young people to navigate their way around and particularly access help in the community.

Christine Ramsden, clinical nurse specialist for the Sheffield Eating Disorder Assessment and Treatment at Sheffield Children's, said: “We have experts across mental health as well as physical health including a psychiatrist, paediatrician, mental health nurses, dietitian and occupational therapy.

“As a result, the team is able to better manage risks arising out of physical health problems, such low weight and low heart rate, and also mental health problems like body image distortion and family conflicts over food.”