teenage angst

Somerset sees rise in eating disorders as pandemic affects the nation’s mental health

DATA from NHS England shows 128 children and young people began treatment for eating disorders at the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the mental health of the nation.

The figures – covering the period from July 2020 to June 2021 – were up from 82 over the same period a year earlier and the 113 seen in 2018-19.

Of the patients who began treatment last year, 35 had been the subject of urgent referrals, compared to 24 the year before and 25 in 2018-19.

NHS rules state 95% of urgent cases must begin treatment within a week, while routinely referred patients should be seen within four weeks.

The figures show the Somerset Trust saw 83% of urgently referred young people on time, while 67% of other patients started treatment within 28 days.

Massive impact

Tom Quinn, of eating disorder charity Beat, said the pandemic had a “massive impact” on those with eating disorders and their loved ones, adding that it was unsurprising to see cases among young people rising.

He said anxiety, isolation and a lack of support had contributed to people developing disorders for the first time or relapsing, adding: “Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, and accessing specialist help as soon as possible leads to the best chances of making a full recovery.

“Every person with an eating disorder should be able to access high quality treatment in their local area as quickly as possible.

“More children and young people with eating disorders are being treated by the NHS than ever before, but demand is increasing at an even faster rate, and it is particularly concerning to see urgent referrals rising.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said eating disorders could have a devastating impact on sufferers and their families, adding that the Government is committed to ensuring young people in need of help get it.

She added: “As part of our Mental Health Recovery Action Plan, we’re investing £79 million to expand children’s mental health services and opening up eating disorder services to an extra 2,000 young people.

“Early intervention and treatment is vital.”

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