Banbury eating disorder specialist decries NHS findings

NHS statistics released today on the number of children and young people up to the age of 19 with an eating disorder who have accessed or are waiting for treatment is in the hundreds.

By Stuart Prestidge
Thursday, 13th February 2020, 3:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 3:04 pm
Dimitra Theofili
Dimitra Theofili

The figures also reveal of those still waiting for treatment to start, some are classified as ‘urgent cases’.

The report shows that in Q3 of 2019/20, 532 routine cases were still waiting for treatment to start since they sought help and were referred, with a further 22 urgent cases still waiting.

Analysis of the statistics by UKAT eating disorder practitioner, based at the Banbury Lodge treatment centre, Dimitra Theofili, reveals that the number of routine cases still waiting for treatment has risen by 20 per cent since the previous quarter.

Banbury Lodge a UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT) centre on the Oxford Road

Dimitra said: “Of course the service is going to receive additional cases to manage and look after each quarter, but these figures suggest that more and more children are simply being added to an ever growing pile.”

Of the 532 routine cases still waiting for treatment, 1 in 4 (134) have been waiting for between four and 12 weeks, with a further 39 children still waiting for treatment to start some 12 weeks since their cry for help.

Additionally 287 children with routine eating disorder cases are waiting between one and four weeks since their referral and 72 are within the one week since referral bracket.

UKAT’s analysis also shows that there are 22 children classed as requiring urgent treatment for their eating disorder, three of which have already been waiting between four and 12 weeks, and two are still waiting 12 weeks since their referral for help.

Dimitra said: “The fact that there are 22 children requiring urgent treatment for their eating disorder condition and are still waiting for their treatment is appalling, quite frankly they are being let down by the NHS.

“This is a progressive illness, meaning it gets worse with time. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done to protect these incredibly vulnerable children who are struggling with a misunderstood yet extremely dangerous and time-sensitive condition.

"A child who asks for help for their eating disorder has taken the first and most important step in their road to recovery and for them to be ignored for months is just not good enough. Time is of the essence when it comes to treating eating disorders, especially in young people.

"This is perhaps why at UKAT, we’re seeing a rise in the number of young people being admitted into private rehab, because once they ask for help, they can get it as quickly as the next day.”

In response the NHS advise that 95 per cent of urgent cases should start treatment within one week of referral, a figure that currently stands at 73.5 per cent. For children with routine eating disorder cases, the NHS target is that 95 per cent of patients should start treatment within four weeks of referral, a figure that currently stands at 86.9 per cent.

Across the UKAT group, admissions for eating disorders has risen by over 200 per cent since 2016, and in 2019, 8 per cent of all admissions were for eating disorders.

So far this year, UKAT’s admissions team are receiving upwards of five enquiries for eating disorder treatment every day.

Dimitra said: “Social media creates unrealistic expectations about body and shape.

"This is more evident and impactful in adolescents and young adults. Instagram and Snapchat seem to be the chosen platforms because of the ability to alter the way their face looks with the use of filters, some which are actually named “perfect face”.

"They’re quite literally suggesting that the user's face is not perfect; how is this meant to make a 13 year old feel about themselves?

“There are also widely promoted diets that advocate not eating carbohydrates. This impacts on blood sugar levels in the child’s body which then affects the level of serotonin in the brain, which alters their levels of well-being and feelings of happiness.

She added: “Eating disorders also affect boys, yet they’re less likely to ask for help. Our experience is that binge eating is the most common form of eating disorder affecting boys.”

Today’s report also reveals that regionally, the majority of urgent cases (nine of 22) still waiting for treatment live in the North East and Yorkshire, and that the majority of routine cases (126) live in the South East, closely followed by 113 routine cases seeking help in the South West and a further 102 living again in the North East and Yorkshire region.

For help, support and advice on eating disorders, visit .

To read the report in full click here.