EARLY INTERVENTION EATING DISORDERS

Supporting mental health teams across England to speed up diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders in young people

Since April 2020, the South West AHSN has been supporting mental health teams across the South West to speed up diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders in young people aged 16 to 25.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WE’RE ADDRESSING?

Eating disorders are serious mental health problems with high levels of mortality. Peak onset for eating disorders is during adolescence and early adulthood. Evidence from research studies suggests that treatment outcomes are best if the condition is identified and treated at the earliest opportunity, within the first three years of illness.

Resources to treat eating disorders are currently stretched for adults (aged 18 and over) and access to evidence-based treatment and care is often delayed until patients show considerable deterioration. This causes distress to individuals and families and increased costs to the NHS.

WHAT ARE THE OUTCOMES WE ARE TRYING TO ACHIEVE?

  • Earlier intervention and treatment of eating disorders in young people
  • Reduction in the length of time young people have untreated eating disorders
  • Reduction in waiting times, day/in-patient admissions and bed days
  • Cost savings through reduced use of healthcare services, in particular reduced need for day/in-patient admissions.

HOW WILL WE DO THIS?

Investment is being made available for community mental health services for children and young adults with eating disorders through the NHS Long Term Plan. This should increase capacity to make early intervention a realistic proposition.

For children and young people, increased investment in dedicated community eating disorder services has already improved access to evidenced care.

The South West AHSN is supporting eating disorders services in the region to achieve improved outcomes by supporting implementation of  FREED (First episode Rapid Early intervention for Eating Disorders), a model developed by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, or a FREED-equivalent service. FREED is an evidence-based, specialist care package for 16 to 25-year-olds with a first episode eating disorder of less than three years’ duration. Broadly based on the early intervention model for psychosis, it overcomes barriers to early treatment and recovery and provides highly coordinated early care, with a central focus on reducing the duration of an untreated eating disorder.