Number of young people treated for eating disorders in Oxfordshire rises during pandemic

Posted: 14th March 2022

NHS chiefs said young people and their families should seek help without delay if they are concerned

The number of young people treated for eating disorders in Oxfordshire jumped during the pandemic. The NHS is urging young people and their families to seek help for concerns, with the rise potentially driven by the disruption and unpredictability since Covid hit.

There were around 237 children aged 18 and under living in the NHS Oxfordshire CCG treated for an eating disorder in 2021. That was a 32 per cent rise from around 180 treated in 2020, according to the figures from NHS England.

The number had also risen from pre-pandemic levels – with around 134 treated in 2019 – to its highest level in five years, up from 138 in 2017. Of those treated, around 18 were treated as urgent cases, up from eight in 2020, and 13 in 2017.

In 2021, 67 per cent of the urgent cases started treatment within the target of one week, compared to 100 per cent in 2020, and 92 per cent in 2017. The other 219 cases were routine or non-urgent (based on doctor assessments), of which 31 per cent were treated with the target of four weeks. That was down from 72 per cent in 2020, and from 69 per cent in 2017.

Across England, 12,566 young people were treated for eating disorders in 2021. That was up by 29 per cent compared to 9,758 in 2020 and the highest number in five years, compared to 6,497 in 2017.

The number of children treated urgently rose from 2,006 to 2,758, but the proportion starting treatment within a week dropped to 63 per cent, the lowest proportion since at least 2017. Similarly, the number starting routine treatment rose from 7,752 to 9,808 but the percentage getting help within four weeks fell from 86 per cent to 69 per cent.

NHS chiefs said young people and their families should seek help without delay if they are concerned. Community services are now available in every part of the country, they say.

Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan, a psychiatrist and NHS associate clinical director for children and young people’s mental health, advised young people and their loved ones to use trusted online resources if they had concerns and wanted to seek help. Prof Chitsabesan added that some of the signs to look out for included behaviours such as making rules about what or how they eat, eating a restricted range of foods or having a negative self-image about their weight and appearance.

Young people’s problems with food can begin as a coping strategy or a way of feeling in control, but may lead to more restrictive patterns of eating and behaviours. The rise in cases could be attributed to the unpredictability of the Covid 19 pandemic, feeling isolated, disruption to routines and experiences of loss and uncertainty.

The NHS is investing an additional £79 million into children’s mental health services because of increased demand during the pandemic, with funding being used to ensure at least 2,000 more children and young people start eating disorder treatment.

NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch said: “NHS services remained open throughout the pandemic as hard-working mental health staff worked to deliver care to more people than ever before. The NHS continues to see record-high numbers of young people for eating disorders and it is vital anybody who might need care comes forward as quickly as possible so the NHS can get you any care you may need.

“Parents can find information on potential symptoms, such as binge eating, feeling guilty after eating, and negative self-image, and other signs of a potential eating disorder, on the NHS website and should not hesitate to contact the NHS if they think their child might need some support.”

 

S0urce: https://www.oxfordshirelive.co.uk/news/oxfordshire-news/number-young-people-treated-eating-6781848

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