Scots suffering from eating disorders need more support

TW: eating disorders

According to Dr Stephen Anderson, Chairman of the Eating Disorders Faculty of Psychiatrists in Scotland, “eating disorders are the deadliest and most lethal of mental health conditions.”

Current services for treatment and support in Scotland are unequal across the country and are underfunded. 

Maddy Wallace, a student reading Medicine at The University of Edinburgh who died from anorexia in 2018, is one example of the many within our community who failed to receive adequate support. 

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For Wallace, moving from her home in Peterborough to Edinburgh meant she was placed on an adult waiting list to seek treatment. 

The inability to access proper care left Wallace unsupported, as described by her parents in a recent interview with the BBC. 

Centres and clinics across the UK all face the same issue of availability. 

There are not enough resources to treat even the most severely ill.

Long waiting lists for referrals and support have resulted in many seeking private treatment. 

Inpatient treatment at a Priory Group facility, one of the more well-known groups to offer private treatment for eating disorders, can cost thousands. 

Whilst the NHS does try to offset some of this cost, many are unable to afford treatment, with those hindered by their socioeconomic status being left vulnerable.  

Those who are transitioning from adolescent to adult services or moving away from home for university can often fall through the cracks due to the waiting times involved in switching services. 

For men, there may be additional difficulties in accessing support due to the stigma surrounding male eating disorders. 

In March 2021, Scotland published a review of the treatment and support available for eating disorders.

 It addressed weaknesses within the current system and recommendations as to how to improve its overall service.

In the review, the Scottish Government highlighted several issues with the current services, including: 

–       Availability of services in non-urban and rural areas was limited compared to urban locations.

–       There were large waiting lists and a lack of treatments available on the NHS, with many seeking costly private support.

–       The negative impact of COVID-19 upon mental health – isolation was found to significantly contribute to eating disorders.

–       Focus on the severely ill and those suffering from anorexia nervosa was detrimental to providing support for other eating disorders. 

–       Little assistance was available for early detection and intervention programs to prevent the development of a more severe illness. 

With this in mind, several recommendations were put forward, such as:

–       Emergency funding provided quickly to meet the urgent needs of eating disorder patients and services as a result of the increase in presentations following COVID-19.

–       Funding and supporting the development of a public health strategy for Scotland, to ensure all areas can address such issues. 

–       Direct investment in mental health services to increase to £117 million.

–       Creating a panel of those who have experienced eating disorders to gain a personal understanding of their experiences. 

–       Direct funding towards support and treatment for men, the LGBT community, and ethnic minority groups, as these groups are more at risk and less likely to receive treatment. 

If you, or anyone you know has been impacted by the issues discussed in the article, please contact:

BEAT: 0808 801 0677 (eating disorder helpline) 

MIND: 0300 123 3393 (mental health helpline)

Image: Flickr