Fears raised over waiting times of care for children with eating disorders
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More than one in 10 children with eating disorders seen by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust are waiting too long to be treated, new figures reveal.
Mental health charities have warned of a postcode lottery on the speed in which children and under 19s are treated, saying it is crucial the government commits funding to meet the need.
NHS guidance says that patients should begin treatment within four weeks of referral, or within one week for urgent cases.
However, the latest figures from NHS England show that just 71% of children and under 19s referred to the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) began their treatment within the target time in the 12 months to June.
The figures patients were left waiting for months for help, with 11 youngsters waiting 12 or more weeks. With urgent referrals, just 68% were seen within a week.
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Peter Devlin, NSFT operations director mental health and learning disabilities (Suffolk), said there had been a “national and local increase in demand for eating disorders services for young people”.
However he said the NSFT’s figures had now improved significantly, with 85.71% of urgent cases receiving treatment within a week of being referred and 72.92% of routine cases receiving treatment within four weeks of being referred.
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He added: “The figures are a positive move in the right direction, particularly in relation to our treatment of the most urgent cases. We remain determined to make further improvements to ensure our young people are receiving timely access to the right specialist care and treatment.”
The figures come despite a governmentbid to drive down waiting times - with NHS trusts and providers being given until 2020 to ensure they are meeting targets with 95% of patients.
However, the trust is making improvement. In the same time period the year before, just 61% of non-urgent referrals were treated within four weeks.
Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at eating disorder charity Beat, said: “At the moment it is difficult to be confident that the target will be met, given that so many trusts appear to be falling behind.
“We are concerned there is much variation - early treatment is crucial, and some trusts are playing catch up.”
An NHS England spokesman said: “More young people are getting the treatment they need for eating disorders, and there has been a significant improvement in treatment times for NHS care.
“An extra £30million is going into children’s eating disorder services every year, with 70 new and improved treatment centres set up in 2017, covering the whole of the country, to ensure more young people get the right care, at the time, close to home.”