Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Part of Petition - Removal of Royal Mail Postal Collection – in the House of Commons at 7:29 pm on 27th February 2018.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 7:29 pm, 27th February 2018

Indeed, and it is always a pleasure to see the hon. Gentleman in his place.

It illustrates the very real interest colleagues have in this important issue. I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the work of the Department and NHS England in delivering on our commitment to better support people with eating disorders. As my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood said, eating disorders are both complex and devastating, and are serious life-threatening conditions with some of the highest mortality rates of any mental health disorder for many of the reasons he outlined: people often become so ill that they and their families do not realise how ingrained the problem is. These conditions can also have severe psychological, physical and social consequences, and they often start, and are prevalent in, young people, which is why early intervention is so crucial.

I will set out what we are doing to support children and young people, but that is not to diminish what my hon. Friend said about adults’ needs, which I will come to later. Having said that early intervention is vital, everyone with an eating disorder must have access to timely treatment. That is why we have set up the first waiting times to improve access to eating disorder services for children and young people, so that by 2020 some 95% of children with an eating disorder will receive treatment within one week for urgent cases and within four weeks for routine cases. I am pleased to be able to report to the House that we are making good progress towards that goal. The latest figures published in the mental health “Five Year Forward View” dashboard indicate that the NHS is on track to meet that standard, with almost 77% of all patients starting urgent treatment within one week and 83% of patients starting routine treatment within four weeks. That information is for the third quarter of 2017-18. We are making progress, but we still have to meet that goal. The number of people seeking treatment is rising, so we will need to make sure there is a commensurate increase in the ability for patients to get the care they need, as well as continue with our reduction in waiting times.

It is a testament to the work done by Members and Beat, and to the fact that there is greater general awareness, that more people are seeking treatment. Raising awareness and improving the understanding of eating disorders is important. My hon. Friend referred to community treatment, and it is our view that in-patient treatment should be seen as a last resort, which is why the Government announced in 2014 that we would invest £150 million to expand eating disorder community-based care. We are making good on that promise, and as a result 70 dedicated new or extended community services are now either open or in development. That will mean that at least 3,350 children and young people a year will receive swift, effective eating disorder treatment in the community.

The services are designed to give young people with eating disorders and who self-harm early access to services in their communities with properly trained teams. That reflects the fact that there was a lack of consistency, which needs to be tackled on a concerted basis so that we have fewer out-of-hours placements, recognising that the road to recovery is often quicker when people have access to their immediate family networks.

The services available include access to talking therapies, so that children and young people have a choice of evidence-based therapies, and a treatment plan agreed with their therapist and recorded outcomes, thereby avoiding the need for hospital stays. By improving care in the community, we can improve outcomes and recovery, and reduce rates of relapse or the numbers of young people transferring to adult services, which is another area of risk. We and NHS England want to make sure we have consistency in provision, and are investing in new in-patient care where there is seen to be a lack.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend highlighted the great work of Beat, and it is worth noting that the Secretary of State spoke at the launch of the Beat report and paid tribute to the young people who speak out. The bravery of those young people probably does more to raise awareness of eating disorders than anything any of us can do, despite our best intentions. Beat found that one in three adults in the UK could not name any signs or symptoms of eating disorders, which again shows we have a long way to go in raising awareness.

The Government understand the importance of increasing understanding and raising awareness. I will highlight some of the things we are doing in this area. First, we have published NICE guidelines on managing and treating eating disorders for everyone over the age of eight, including adults, children and young people. That guidance is available for healthcare professionals and commissioners who provide public services to people with eating disorders.

Secondly, we have set out ambitious plans in the children and young people’s mental health Green Paper, partly to address the point made by Bambos Charalambous. We are trying to create new mental health teams in schools, perhaps the earliest of early interventions, recognising that the earlier we can intervene, the more likely we are to avoid longer-term damage and crisis and to achieve better outcomes with people who are struggling. Some 8,000 new NHS staff will work closely with those teams in schools to deliver that enhanced support.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood said, we talk a lot about children but what about the adults? To further improve adult eating disorder care, we have developed a pathway, together with detailed implementation guidance for providers. That is in development by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, in partnership with NICE. It is being fully informed by the available evidence and the views of experts, and will increase healthcare professionals’ awareness of the early signs and symptoms of eating disorders so that they too can refer their patients without delay.

Central to all this is the data collection that is being done by NHS England. My hon. Friend wanted to make sure that the moneys we are making available are actually being spent on the services on the ground, and that all clinical commissioning groups are delivering against their obligations. We are collecting that data. NHSE is undertaking a very close CCG-by-CCG analysis of exactly the pattern of care in each area so that we can make sure that everyone has access to prompt treatment and that we have consistency in access to provision.

Later this week, as it is Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I will be visiting the Bristol eating disorders health integration team—weather permitting, that is. This is a team of psychologists, academics, commissioners, care and support providers, and people with lived experience of eating disorders who are all working together to improve care and quality of life for people with eating disorders in Bristol. The team focuses on both prevention and treatment. If we can find examples of good practice and share them, we will go a long way towards achieving consistency of provision. I very much look forward to meeting those clinicians and experts-by-experience to see what we in Government can do to support them.

Again, I thank my hon. Friend for bringing this debate to the House. I am sure that this is not the last time that he will speak to me about this issue, because it is not the first time he has spoken to me about it either. I thank everyone for participating in the debate. I know that everyone here has a significant interest in mental health and those suffering with eating disorders. We all know that this can be the most fatal of all mental illnesses, and that every death is a tragedy. That is why we are very much committed to doing everything we can to combat this terrible illness.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.