Eating disorders soar during pandemic

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A huge increase in eating disorders has seen a 55 per cent jump in demand for specialist services since the Covid pandemic began.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran say the figure, which includes a significant portion of young people, also show an increase in severity of those referred to specialist NHS eating disorder services.

Across most health boards, figures reveal mental health has declined and eating disorders have increased. At two regional in-patient hubs dealing with eating disorders there has been a 220 per cent rise in paediatric admissions.

Data gathered from seven of Scotland’s 14 health boards shows a combined 86 per cent increase in referrals between 2019 and 2020 and specialists have also reported the increase in numbers and the severity of cases has fuelled a rise in adolescent psychiatric admissions. Two regional units with available data report a combined 161 per cent in eating disorder patients between 2019 and 2020.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran is due to receive £328,213 to help boosting the region’s eating disorder services as part of a Scottish Government fund that will deliver £5 million nationally during the 2021/22 financial year.

North Ayrshire integration joint board’s chief officer Caroline Cameron said: ‘The national review published in March this year had 15 recommendations. The first of those focused on the Covid response and how we would provide emergency funding to NHS boards to support the urgent needs of eating disorder patients.

‘Nationally, there’s been an unprecedented increase in the number and severity of children and young people presenting with eating disorders.

‘In Ayrshire and Arran, it’s far exceeding demand and referral patterns in previous years so the Scottish Government on June 18 announced £5m of funding for this financial year to respond to those recommendations in the national review.

‘Our eating disorder service in Ayrshire and Arran is an all-age delivered service with the governance sitting under a lead partnership led by the North Ayrshire health and social care partnership, so the service has started a review in response to the eating disorders recommendations and is considering how to prioritise that funding to improve services and address that increase in demand.’