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 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. 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 across England. The Children and Young People’s Eating Disorder Access and Waiting Time Commissioning Guide was published in August 2015.

In August 2019 an Addendum was published along with a helpful resources document to support the delivery of integrated care between dedicated Community Eating Disorder services and inpatient or intensive day care services. Guidance to support the implementation of dedicated community eating disorder services for adults and integration with day and inpatient care settings was also published in August 2019, with supporting resources.

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

From 2016 to 2020 progress towards meeting the referral to treatment waiting time standard (within 1 week for urgent cases and 4 weeks for non-urgent cases) is monitored by Strategic Data Collection Service and the Mental Health Services Data Set and 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 waiting time 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. Continued extra investment will allow delivery of the 95 per cent standard beyond 2020/21, as set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

To support service improvements and development of community eating disorder services in line with the eating disorder guidance for children, young people and their families:

  • 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 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.