Mental health trusts work in partnership to support people affected by eating disorders

Case study summary

CONNECT is a regional service aimed at improving care for adults with eating disorders. It is a great example of how partnerships can better support people with mental health issues, while reducing costs for the NHS.


It can be really isolating when you have an eating disorder, so we want to bring people together with their hobbies, their interests, things that are part of their identity outside of their eating disorder. All of those things are key to helping a person see that they can recover..

Mary Franklin-Smith, Psychological Therapist
CONNECT: Adult Eating Disorder Service

Launched in April 2018 as part of the New Care Models in Specialised Mental Health Services programme, CONNECT: The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Adult Eating Disorders Service offers a variety of treatment options based on a person’s needs including early intervention, home-based treatment or inpatient treatment.

The service is provided by a partnership of four mental health trusts – Leeds and York Partnership, Bradford District Care, South West Yorkshire Partnership and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trusts, working with eating disorders charity Beat and NHS England/NHS Improvement.

Dr Rhys Jones, Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead, said CONNECT aims to provide high-quality, community and inpatient care across a region which has a population of 2.6 million people.

“The development of CONNECT through the New Care Models programme has meant the partner trusts have been able to address the issue of disjointed and inequitable care across the West Yorkshire and Harrogate region – creating a more effective, consistent and cost-effective pathway,” Dr Jones said. “The widening of access to early intervention across the region means eating disorders patients are now assessed and offered evidence-based treatment within four weeks. The benefits that follow are better treatment, improved patient outcomes and satisfaction levels, reduced length-of-stay for inpatient services and fewer out-of-area placements.”

Psychological Therapist Mary Franklin-Smith explained how CONNECT can help people suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

“We’re called CONNECT for a reason and that’s because we know it’s important to connect with services quickly, to connect with family members, to connect with your community,” she said. “It can be really isolating when you have an eating disorder, so we want to bring people together with their hobbies, their interests, things that are part of their identity outside of their eating disorder. We’re wanting to meet them where they’re at, we want them to feel heard and we want them to be able to connect with the really tricky experiences they’re having. All of those things are key to helping a person see that they can recover and that they have health.”

Former patient Anna received treatment for anorexia from CONNECT and explained how she benefited from both one-to-one and group sessions.

“I didn’t know that I would get a diagnosis of anorexia,” Anna said. “I didn’t actually believe that was going to apply to me. With CONNECT I found the one-to-one sessions really helpful. Initially, what I needed was someone to listen to me and acknowledge who I was as a person and acknowledge that this wasn’t part of who I am and it’s something I can get over and going to CONNECT and getting help is the best decision that ever happened.”

Former patient Abbie explained how her feelings towards group therapy changed through her treatment at CONNECT.

“It was like a subconscious thing where I thought, ‘If I lose weight I’ll feel better,’ and then it just kind of spiralled from there,” Abbie said. “I just thought I can’t go on like this. So my eating disorder service referred me to CONNECT. I had group therapy as well as one-to-one and when my therapist first suggested going into a group I was adamant that it wouldn’t be helpful, I’d hate it. But then once you get to know people there it’s actually more helpful than what just one-to-one therapy would be.

“Looking back, I can understand why I was so scared but having been through it, it’s really not scary at all and the people you meet there are actually really nice. I think you almost have to feel the fear and do it anyway.”

The main achievements of CONNECT in its first year include

  • 161 service users have accessed community treatment since going live in April 2018 which represents a three-fold increase in caseload,
  • enhanced links with regional stakeholders and more streamlined referrals,
  • repatriation of all pre-existing out-of-area placements,
  • no new out of-area placements,
  • a 24% reduction in hospital bed-days,
  • financial savings of £1.2 million in the first year (£293,000 to fund out-of-area beds in 2018/19 compared to £1.6m in 2017/18).

Dr Jones added these achievements were made possible through the NHS England and NHS Improvement New Care Models initiative. This involved the formation of a regional partnership which helped develop and implement the service through every stage, anchored in a clear vision formulated and delivered in collaboration with service users and carers.

The success of CONNECT in benefiting patients has been recognised through winning the Positive Practice in Mental Health Eating Disorders Service of the Year Award (2018) and the HSJ Value Mental Health Highly Commended Award (2019).

For further information contact CONNECT: The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Adult Eating Disorder Service, email: