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The referral into treatment of not only eating disorders, but other related illnesses among young people is on an upward trend when we consider statistics from NHS Digital.

“This may be a very positive trend if it indicates that treatment is being provided to more people rather than interpreting the statistics as a real increase in incidence. Although to be realistic, it is likely to represent a bit of both,” comments Ellern Mede Managing Director, Peter Curtis.

NHS England publishes statistics quarterly. In the most recent report, for specialist treatments, taking a snapshot on 30th April 2018, 31,725 more cases were receiving secondary mental health, learning disabilities and autism treatments than month end averages during April 2017 to March 2018. That is a 2.5% increase year on year. The total number of cases at 30th April 2018 was 1,256,902.

Most of this increase were new referrals – 272,666 – 5,548 (2.1%) more than new referrals per month in the previous year.

Ellern Mede as a leading provider of eating disorder services is aligned with most eating disorders and mental health experts in urging for health policy to recognise that the total cost to public health is likely to be less in the long run if earlier treatment is provided to young people at earliest onset of conditions. Although policy has not changed with regards to admission criteria for eating disorders, the drive spearheaded by politicians such as Luciana Berger, Labour MP and president of Labour’s campaign for mental health and the research by charity BEAT, is making a change in GPs and Commissioners recognising that earliest possible specialist referral is important.

NHS England’s bulletin promises that by 2020, 95% of children and young people referred for assessment or treatment for an eating disorder should receive treatment within one week if the case is urgent, and four weeks if the case is routine. The percentage of patients receiving urgent treatment within a week in Q4 2017/18 at 79% is an improvement from 69% in Q4 2016/17.

“We are heading in the right direction, and we congratulate NHS England on this achievement,” said Peter Curtis.

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