Health chiefs raise alarm over record number of children being treated with eating disorders

·2-min read
 (Shutterstock / Photographee.eu)
(Shutterstock / Photographee.eu)

Health chiefs have raised the alarm in Parliament over a record number of children and young people being treated with eating disorders.

They told how the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted on so many young people’s mental health including fuelling a rise in eating disorders which can include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, and Professor Tim Kendall, the national clinical director for mental health, warned of the scale of the problem in a letter to Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the Commons health and social care committee.

They wrote: “The NHS is now treating more children and young people with an eating disorder than ever before as cases increased significantly during the pandemic.”

There has been a near five-fold jump in the number of these youngsters waiting for treatment in London.

The figure rose to 187 between January and March, compared to 39 for the same period last year, according to the figures from NHS England.

The number of children and young people in the capital who had received treatment also increased by 39 per cent, from 263 to 365 over the same period.

Ms Murdoch and Prof Kendall told the Commons committee that more than 180 mental health support teams were now operating in around 3,000 schools and colleges.

They stressed that 24/7 urgent mental health lines had been opened across the country so that children, young people, families and carer could access support “whenever they need it”.

They also explained that the NHS had exceeded the mental health target of 70,000 additional children and young people accessing treatment by 2020/21, a year early, stating that it had “maintained access rates during the pandemic”.

The NHS was also working to ensure mental health care was delivered closer to people’s homes and through community provision where possible.

However, they also added: “Despite this progress, we know there is further to go. The NHS Long Term Plan set a 10 year goal that 100 per cent of children and young people who need specialist care can access (it).

“We are committed to improving the level and quality of the offer including challenging the current and future models of support.”

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