Eating disorders are serious mental health problems. They can have severe psychological, physical and social consequences. Children and young people with eating disorders often have other mental health problems (e.g. anxiety or depression) which also need to be treated in order to get the best outcomes.
It is vital that children and young people with eating disorders and their families and carers can access effective help quickly. Offering evidence-based, high-quality care and support as soon as possible can improve recovery rates, lead to fewer relapses and reduce the need for inpatient admissions. The availability of dedicated community eating disorder services has been shown to improve outcomes and cost effectiveness.
In 2015, the government announced an additional £30m funding a year (recurrent for five years) to support the development of dedicated community eating disorder services. This will also release further general capacity into CAMHS to help young people in mental health crisis or who may be self-harming. The programme will be delivered within the CYP IAPT programme framework which promotes early access to collaborative, effective, evidence-based and outcome-focused treatment.
The sooner someone with an eating disorder starts an evidence-based NICE approved treatment the better the outcome. In partnership with the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health Services (NCCMH), we have developed the Children and Young People’s Eating Disorder Access and Waits Commissioning Guide. This introduces an access and wait standard, that those referred for assessment or treatment for eating disorder should receive NICE concordant treatment within one week for urgent cases and within four weeks for every other case. In the case of emergencies, the eating disorder service should be contacted to provide support within 24 hours.