Children and young people’s eating disorders programme

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 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. Dedicated community eating disorder services improve outcomes and cost effectiveness.

In 2014, the Government announced an additional £30 million funding a year to support the development of dedicated community eating disorder services for children and young people across England.  This money was in addition to existing resources already used to support Eating Disorders. In 2018/19, the total spend  by CCGs on CYP eating Disorders was circa £51m. In recognition of rising referrals, the NHS Long Term Plan has placed a further £11m in CCG baselines in 2019/20, and a further £11m in 2020/21.

The Eating Disorders programme promotes early access to effective, evidence-based and outcome-focused treatment working in partnership with children, young people and families.

The Children and Young People’s Eating Disorder Access and Waiting Time Commissioning Guide (published August 2015) and an addendum with helpful resources (published August 2019) help commissioners and providers to meet the standards and requirements for community eating disorder services, the access and waiting time standard and improve integrated care with day or inpatient services. The standard requires services to ensure that by 2020/21, 95 per cent of children and young people in need begin treatment within 1 week for urgent cases and 4 weeks for non-urgent cases.

From 2016 to 2020 progress towards meeting the referral to treatment waiting time standard is monitored by Strategic Data Collection Service and the Mental Health Services Data Set. Quarterly reports are available on the Statistics section of our website (see the frequently asked questions (FAQs).

The NHS is on track to deliver the standard and four fifths of children and young people with an eating disorder now receive treatment within one week in urgent cases and four weeks for non-urgent cases. Increased investment will allow delivery of the 95 per cent standard beyond 2020/21, as described in the NHS Long Term Plan and detailed in the Mental Health Implementation Plan.

To support service improvements and development of community eating disorder services:

  • NHS England & Improvement’s Guidance for adult eating disorder services, with supporting resources, was also published in 2019 to support delivery of community eating disorder services that are integrated with day and/or inpatient care to reduce admissions, length-of-stay and improve outcomes for users, families and carers. They should provide a seamless pathway for young adults transitioning from children and young people’s eating disorder services.
  • the Royal College of Psychiatrists established a peer-review Quality Improvement Network for Community Eating Disorder Services for Children, Young People and their Families (information is available on the QNCC-ED webpage)
  • in each region Clinical Networks with support from Mental Health Improvement Teams bring together local commissioners and providers to support delivery of the service model, improve quality of care, and overcome challenges.

For more information on where to access help please see the NHS eating disorders web page for all age groups.