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NHS grants £40m to support increasing demand for treating eating disorders

by Jess Hacker
23 June 2021

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An additional £40m has been allocated to children and young people’s mental health services to address the increasing demand for the treatment of eating disorders, NHS England has said.

The cash injection – which comes on top of £79m already made available in March to support children and young people’s mental health – will be used to improve care to young people with complex mental health problems, like eating disorders.

From the new injection, as much as £10m capital funding will be used to provide extra beds to units caring for these patients, with £1.5m used to ensure there are additional facilities for children under 13.

To support staff caring for patients with eating disorders, the investment will cover specialist feeding training, and will also see day services for these patients.

Earlier this year, MPs heard during an evidence hearing that when a patient presents with an eating disorder they are often judged by what they ‘look like physically’, and that GPs need to know to ask ‘the right questions’.

Hope Virgo, founder of the #DumpTheScales campaign, told politicians that GPs need a screening tool to effectively identify eating disorders and intervene earlier.

This would be for use in place  BMI to diagnose an eating disorder which she said can risk excluding patients from the support they need.

Treating ‘complex’ mental health needs at home

The funding will also be used to address the impact Covid-19 has had on young people, with a substantial amount pledged to support care delivered outside of hospital in the home.

NHSE said that some of the money will be spent to ensure ‘the right type of beds are in the right places, or that alternatives to admission are in place’.

This would see money spent on establishing an ‘intensive community support role’ to prevent children being admitted to hospital and to facilitate earlier discharge so that they may receive care at home.

It said that 96 associate practitioner psychologists will be trained to practise under close supervision with those who have complex and severe mental health conditions, to provide care in hospital and at home.

Claire Murdoch, national mental health director, said: ‘This pandemic has hit our young people hard and while services have remained open throughout, we have seen an increase in the numbers of children and young people seeking help from the NHS for their mental health.’

She added that the funding comes in recognition of the ‘rising demand’ for services.

This funding comes in addition to that set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, which aims to improve access to mental health services for 345,000 children and young people by 2024.

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