More inpatient beds for eating disorder admissions are needed. This is clear from NHS Digital’s release of hospital admission statistics for this dreadful illness. The graph above is sourced from

Ellern Mede is actively working towards making more inpatient eating disorder beds available for young people. It has never been more evident that the role of an inpatient admission can’t be underestimated, despite clinicians’ debate over ideal treatment duration.

For some people experiencing this life-threatening mental illness which presents with treatment resistance, an inpatient admission of some type for stabilising nutritional intake is a life saver.

50% year on year hospital admissions increase

The reason this is so evident, and that it has hit headlines in prime-time news, is that NHS Digital Statistics announced in July that the COVID pandemic had impacted the prevalence and intensity of eating disorder cases. UK Eating Disorder hospital admissions increased. NHS Digital reported the number of under-20s admitted over the past year topped 3,200 – nearly 50% higher than in April 2019- March 2020. The BBC highlighted the news over various channels, including a Radio 4 Woman’s Hour interview with Professor Sandeep Ranote, a Consultant Paediatric Psychiatrist. It’s an 8-minute interview, from 2.5 minutes to 10.5 minutes into the broadcast.

Advice for parents

Read more advice to parents at end of this article, or online in Radio 4 Woman’s Hour’s Parenting Podcast.

NHS Community Services unable to cope

The numbers of young people needing treatment for their eating disorder are now so high that hospitals are now warning they are running out of beds to care for these patients, and that NHS Community Services (the NHS preferred option for eating disorders treatment), is struggling to keep up with demand. The reports said  waiting list for treatment has trebled since the pandemic started, while those that are being seen are having to wait longer for care. This has led to growing numbers of under 20s reaching crisis point and ending up in hospital.

Importance of early treatment

Ellern Mede would stress however that waiting until crisis point before offering inpatient hospitalisation is not the answer. Early intervention in this critical illness will often have to take the form of addressing a treatment-resistant nutritional deficit, and sometimes, being away from your home environment in an independent, safe and supportive specialist hospital ward is the only way to prevent the downward spiral to a crisis point in both physical and mental health.

Advice for parents

Professor Ranote gives the following tips for parents of young people who may have an eating disorder.

  1. Don’t suffer in silence – speak to someone you trust
  2. Eating disorders are real illnesses
    “Remember you are not to blame and nor is your child”
  3. Seek support as early as possible if you are worried
    “What would you do if your son / daughter / loved one had diabetes? Approach this in the same way.”
  4. Go to see your GP and / or the school
  5. Get support through BEAT
    “The national eating disorder charity has helplines to advise and help you to navigate treatment. They also have lots of resources to help you to understand eating disorders and know what to do next, including secure chat rooms to speak to others with lived experience.”
  6. Access additional information through the NHS website and The Royal College of Psychiatrists
  7. Understand the early warning signs of an eating disorder
    There is more information about what to look for here.
  8. Hope is an important therapeutic tool
    “There is hope and there is help. It is important that the whole family is involved in supporting the person with the eating disorder, but also that the whole family gets the support they need too.”
  9. Eating disorders do not discriminate
    “They can affect people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and social backgrounds.”