hscicThe number of people admitted to hospital for eating disorders rose by 8% in the past year, new statistics have revealed.

In the 12 months to October 2013 hospitals dealt with 2,560 admissions for eating disorders, according to the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). Of these admissions, 91% were female – roughly the same figure as for 2011/12. The most common age for female admissions was 15 years old and for males was just 13 years old.

Three in 4 admissions (76%) were for anorexia, while 5% were for bulimia. Other eating disorders accounted for the remaining 19% of admissions. 

Patients admitted to hospital for an eating disorder were more likely to spend more time in hospital compared to all other types of admission. For instance, 21% of those admitted for an eating disorder were discharged on the same day – compared to 63% of all other admissions. In addition, 6% of those admitted for an eating disorder stayed in hospital for longer than 6 months.

Eating disorders charity Beat has reacted with concern to these figures. “We find increase worrying and also just the tip of the iceberg,” said communications officer Rebecca Field. “The figures only show inpatient admissions – we know that the majority of individuals are treated as outpatients within their community as well as in private treatment centres – or worst still, not treated at all.”

Field added that inpatient treatment should be a last resort; the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines on eating disorders state that patients should expect to have most of their treatment as an outpatient.

“Ideally help would be provided much quicker – we know that recovery is possible and the sooner an individual receives the treatment they need the more likely they are to make a full recovery and the less chance that lengthy stays in a specialist inpatient unit are necessary,” she said. “These figures highlight that early effective treatment is not in place for all.

“We hope that more people are aware of eating disorders and therefore know that they are serious and that help is available for those struggling. But we may also be seeing an increase in the number of cases.”