Men cannot easily access eating disorder treatment because of single-sex rules on wards, according to a survey in the British Journal of Psychiatry Bulletin.
The evaluation found that out of 26 units that responded, 6 did not admit men and 4 had to close admissions to men following inspections which concluded it was unsafe to have mixed wards.
‘The single-sex system disadvantages males as the majority of the patients are female. The fact that both professionals and patients believe eating disorder wards should be open to males, should spur units to accept males if they do not currently do so,’ said Akira Fukutomi, lead author of the study.
‘The guidelines have been amended following our work and we hope that more men will find access to treatment.’
Approximately 25% of people living with an eating disorder in the UK are male but they face considerable barriers when accessing treatment – men have to wait nearly three times as long as women for a referral from their GP according to Beat, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity.
The research asked clinicians and patients how they felt about mixed wards and more than 80% of professionals were in favour, saying mixed wards were not harmful to patient care – over 60% of patients stated that mixed wards would benefit their recovery.
‘It is important to evaluate the impact of any policy change affecting patient care. We welcome this research into one of the known barriers to treatment for a significant, and increasing, proportion of patients with eating disorders i.e. men. It provides valuable information from both professionals and patients perspectives that can inform service provision,’ said Dasha Nicholls from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
The Care Quality Commission confirmed that mixed-gender wards are consistent with their guidance as long as certain arrangements are made, such as giving male patients their own bedrooms.
‘We need to remove the barriers that can prevent men and boys from accessing treatment, by raising awareness and ensuring services are accessible and have enough resources to provide help,’ said Andrew Radford, chief executive of Beat. ‘The sooner someone gets treatment for an eating disorder, the better their chances of recovery. The Government and NHS must do more to reduce the nearly three years it takes, on average, for people to seek help, so that they get treatment at a stage when it is most effective.’