“Record number of children and young people waiting for eating disorder treatment, as soaring demand overwhelms services”

Throughout pandemic, the number of under-19s waiting for urgent eating disorder treatment has more than tripled which, is an all-time high. Many services are struggling to provide timely treatment due to the overwhelming demand. The new NHS data analysed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows that the number of those waiting for urgent and routine treatment has reached record levels. The data also shows that more children and young people are being treated than ever before.

A year on from the start of the pandemic, it was found that: 207 patients were waiting for urgent treatment, up from 56 at the same time the previous year (270% increase), ); 1,832 patients were waiting for routine treatment, up from 441 at the same time last year (315% increase), ); 852 patients received urgent treatment, compared to 328 in the first quarter of 2020/21 (160% increase), and 2,600 patients received routine treatment, compared to 1,347 in the first quarter of 2020/21 (93% increase).

The numbers are worryingly high. The government committed to ensure that 95% of under-19s receive treatment within one week for urgent cases and four weeks for all other cases by the end of 2021. However, the latest data shows how far the NHS is from achieving its target. Only 61% of patients started urgent treatment within one week in the first quarter of 2021/22, the lowest proportion since 2016/17, down from a record high of 88% in the first quarter of 2020/21, and only 73% of patients started routine treatment within four weeks in the first quarter of 2021/22, down from 87% in the first quarter of 2020/21.

Due to the increase in those needing treatment, as shown in these figures, the Royal College of Psychiatrists demand additional funding to help as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Dr Agnes Ayton, Chair of the Faculty of Eating Disorders Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on children and young people with disruption to their schooling, social lives and home lives. Many young people have not received support early enough, causing their eating disorders to become much worse and harder to treat.”

If the issues discussed in this article impact you or someone you know, get in touch with Beat, the UK's Eating Disorder Charity. You can find out about their various specialist helplines that are open 365 days a year between 9am-8pm on weekdays and 4pm-8pm on weekends and bank holidays here.