‘Seriously ill children will think they’re not sick enough’ – Anger over eating disorder waits

Debbie Watson, of Woodbridge, launched Wednesdays Child to help those struggling with eating disord

Debbie Watson, of Woodbridge, launched Wednesdays Child to help those struggling with eating disorders. Picture: WARREN PAGE/PAGEPIX LTD - Credit: Archant

Children with severe eating disorders aren’t being seen quickly enough – with fewer than two in 10 urgent cases in Ipswich and east Suffolk being seen within a week.

Run by the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), eating disorder community services are required to treat 'urgent' cases within a week and 'routine' patients within four weeks. The target is to see 84% of urgent and 95% of routine cases within those periods.

However, the rolling 12-month average for under-19s needing urgent treatment in Suffolk is fewer than half at 47.6%, according to NHS data.

The latest figure for the Ipswich and east Suffolk area was 18.2% in November, compared with 25% in west Suffolk. There are often small numbers of 'urgent' cases - so percentages can vary month-on-month.

'Devastating'

Stuart Richardson, chief operating officer at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) Ph

Stuart Richardson, chief operating officer at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) Photo: NSFT - Credit: Archant


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Debbie Watson, from Woodbridge, lived with anorexia for 20 years.

She said: "It is devastating to hear that people are waiting far longer than they should for eating disorder treatment.

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"Eating disorders are a mental health issue, they have some of the highest mortality rates as lots of people with them will die by suicide.

"If people have the courage to go to a GP for help, but are then turned away or not seen quickly enough, these seriously ill children will start to believe they're not sick enough and make themselves worse.

Debbie, who is founder of Wednesday's Child, a social enterprise supporting those with eating disorders, added: "They feel they've got to get sicker - eating disorders are horrendous, corruptive illnesses."

The news comes amid NSFT's plan to disband the current eating disorder service into one of its newly formed care groups - the 'children, families and young people' group - by the end of January.

Teams will retain their geographical locations of Ipswich and Newmarket.

Reducing waits a 'top priority'

Chief operating officer Stuart Richardson said: "We remain determined to make further improvements to ensure our young people are receiving timely access to the right specialist care and treatment.

"Since December, all suitable referrals in Suffolk have been offered appointments within the specified timescale.

"Demand for eating disorder services for young people has increased nationally, while there has also been an increase in the complexity of cases we are seeing, often meaning more support, for a longer period of time.

"Our trust and commissioners have been working together to deliver services more effectively, such as by moving the eating disorders service into the newly-formed Suffolk children, families and young people's care group."

Bosses also said difficulties around patients getting to the clinic and issues around telephone triage and GP referrals had led to poorer performance in 2019.

- For advice, visit the Beat website or call 0808 801 0677.

Contact Wednesday's Child on hello@wednesdayschild.co.uk

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