“There has been a huge increase with more people finding they cannot access services,” says campaigner Hope Virgo. “At best they are left in limbo but people are going to die because they can’t get treatment. “The system was broken before the pandemic but with the number of people struggling increasing, the system is now completely overwhelmed. “It is a treatable condition, but the consequences of not getting a diagnosis and the right help are devastating. It is appalling that people are dying unnecessarily.
“With the right funding, the right treatment, interventions and education, people can and will be able to go on with their lives.”
A survey in 2019 recorded a 266 per cent increase in eating disorder (ED) cases over the past 12 years while overstretched hospitals in England dealt with 19,000 admissions last year.
GPs receive just two hours ED training and funding support is subject to a postcode lottery.
Dr Ashish Kumar, of the Faculty of Eating Disorders at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said there was a 128 per cent yearly rise in the number of children needing hospital treatment in 2019.
“Early intervention is critical with ED, but resources are spread too thin,” he added. “Outcomes are good with early treatment but if not, there is risk of developing depression, anxiety and suffering severe physical health outcomes across education, jobs and family.
“Girls whose weight goes below a threshold stop having periods. “That increases the risk of infertility, bone deformation and developmental issues with their brain, heart and other organs.”
Baroness Kate Parminter, who campaigns for more ED resources, added: “Hospital readmission rates have increased four-fold in the last decade. There have been welcome interventions from the Government but no overall strategy. There are children with severe eating disorders who are not getting the care they need quickly enough, which could have life-threatening consequences.”
Minister for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries, said: “I know how important it is that people with an eating disorder get the support they need when they need it. We are investing more each year in community eating disorder services for adults, young people and children.”