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Eating disorder services at risk of missing targets by 2021

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One in five patients is not seen within four weeks One in five patients is not seen within four weeks of referral

Eating disorder services risk not meeting targets by 2021, according to figures released by NHS England.

After the proportion of routine cases being seen within the target of four weeks initially rose from 67.1% to 82.4% over a year from 2016-17 to 2017-18, this has plateaued, with the latest figures showing a drop to 80.2%.

‘It is very worrying that momentum has been lost and the NHS is no longer on track to meet waiting times targets for routine cases by 2020. People who do not get treatment fast will become more ill, causing more suffering to them and their family and a greater cost to the NHS,’ said eating disorder charity Beat’s Chief Executive Andrew Radford.

The proportion of urgent cases seen within the target of one week after referral has risen from 74.7% to 81.3% compared to the previous quarter, meaning that the NHS is nearly on track to meet targets for urgent cases by 2021. However, experts caution that this progress remains inconsistent. ‘The Government has allocated an extra £30 million every year for children and young people’s eating disorder services but it seems this is not always reaching the frontline services where it is most needed,’ added Mr Radford. ‘More must be done to ensure it is spent as intended so that services have the resources to meet the waiting times targets and provide treatment fast.’

Additionally, the figures show local variation, with the proportion of urgent cases being seen within target waiting times ranged from 20% – 100% between NHS Trusts The proportion of routine cases seen within targets ranged from 36% – 100% for all NHS Trusts with 30 or more routine referrals.

‘There is still a postcode lottery when it comes to how long children and young people wait for treatment. The Government and NHS must do more to address this and ensure that people are not denied treatment because their local services lack funding or impose criteria for referral that can be a barrier to treatment,’ added Mr Radford.

‘Furthermore, waiting times standards help sufferers who have already been referred for treatment but it still takes nearly three years, on average, for someone to realise they have an eating disorder and visit a GP. We know that the sooner someone gets treatment, the better their chances of recovery, so the Government must do more to ensure people are able to seek help fast.’

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