This week marks Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015. An estimated 1.6 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, although the figure is likely to be higher with many sufferers not disclosing their symptoms.
This government is failing eating disorder sufferers. Recovery from an eating disorder is a process of unpicking the past and mechanisms sufferers have learnt to use to cope. It is widely acknowledged that early intervention is critical in facilitating a full recovery from an eating disorders. The average age of onset of an eating disorder is 12 years old, with a study by Overeaters Anonymous finding over 50% of sufferers saying they were under 10 years old when they first developed a problem with food. The same study found just under a third of sufferers were aged 11-15 when their Anorexia began.
The first port of call for sufferers under 18 should be their local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), a service we can be proud was set up under the 1997 Labour government. Funding for local authorities has faced drastic cuts under this government, meaning while the Tories promised ‘no cuts to the NHS’, YoungMinds found over two-thirds of local authorities in England have been forced to reduce their CAMHS budget since 2010 with one council reporting a drop of 41%.
As a result early intervention services are being scaled back, with CAMHS services being forced to deal with priority cases, a decision that while understandable under the circumstances can only be short sighted. Many teachers are reporting having to pick up the pieces in the classroom, where more often than not they are untrained to deal with children with such complex needs. In effect CAMHS is becoming a service of last resort, a crisis team for young people.
With such drastic cuts to early intervention services it is not a surprise that in 2012 hospitals reported a 16% increase in people being admitted to inpatient care for treatment, a rise of a further 8% reported in October 2014. Not only does inpatient admission cost emotional strain, on both the sufferer and the family it is also cost ineffective with eating disorders costing the English economy an estimated £1.25billion per year. The average cost per person for eating disorder treatment in an inpatient bed is £510 per day.
Roughly one in every 200 women will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives, with the number of male sufferers growing faster than ever. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, roughly 1 in 5 sufferers will die as a result of complications from their eating disorder.
It’s time this government put early intervention, not only in mental wellbeing and eating disorders at the forefront of their policy. However after almost 5 years of this Tory/Lib Dem government I know they won’t, which is why as well as campaigning for better eating disorder care during #EDAW15, I’ll also be campaigning for a much needed Labour government.