Eating disorders are serious mental health problems which can have severe consequences.
Eating disorders are serious mental health problems which can have severe consequences.

I understand your concerns that some people with eating disorders are being turned away from treatment because their weight or Body Mass Index (BMI) is not low enough.

Eating disorders are serious mental health problems which can have severe consequences. However, there are reports that clinical standards differ across the country and service access and levels of funding vary from one area to the next. It is right that the Government does everything possible to improve early intervention and treatment.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guideline on eating disorders makes it clear that single measures, such as BMI or absolute weight, should not be used in isolation to determine whether to offer treatment for an eating disorder. It also recommends that professionals in primary and secondary mental health or acute settings, such as A&E, should assess the presence of mental health problems commonly associated with eating disorders, including depression and anxiety.

The Government maintains that commissioners and health professionals, including GPs, are expected to follow NICE guidelines when diagnosing and treating eating disorders. However, individual clinical commissioning groups are ultimately responsible for developing their own local approaches based on the needs of their community.

A 2017 research study by the eating disorder charity Beat found that, on average, three-and-a-half-years pass between symptoms of an eating disorder emerging and treatment starting. I am concerned that many people, especially young people, are not able to access the mental health support they need due to a lack of resources. The Royal College of Psychiatrists reports that mental health trusts have less money to spend on patient care in real terms now compared to 2012, and the number of mental health nurses in England has fallen.

I have written to the Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care to ask what the Government are doing to increase investment in mental health services and ring-fence budgets to ensure that funding reaches those who need support. I have also asked what they Government are going to do to ensure that eating disorders are higher on the agenda and ensure that GPs and other health professionals receive appropriate training, so they can identify the symptoms of eating disorders and intervene earlier to provide support and treatment. As soon as I have received a response I will provide you with an update.

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