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New-look service provides extra help for eating disorders

A new-look specialist eating disorder service run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) is now helping more twice as many people as it has been able to help before after extending the care it provides.

The Community Eating Disorder Service (CEADS) in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney area can now cater for all ages, which means people referred in their teens can receive consistent care from a dedicated team without the need to transfer elsewhere when they reach 18. In addition, the service has also expanded to care for people with moderate difficulties, whereas previously it could only take referrals for the most seriously ill patients.

Over the next few months, care for people with illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia will improve still further when new staff are recruited to the existing team using money awarded to the region by NHS England as part of a fund designed to transform care. As well as allowing the team to reach more patients, it will also mean they can extend their opening hours into the evening and over weekends.
The news comes during national eating disorders awareness week, which is organised by the charity Beat and began on Monday (22 February).

“We are very excited about our expanded service, which is already making a real difference to people from across Great Yarmouth and Waveney,” said Lydia Goodrum, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Eating Disorders Team Lead.

“Offering care to all ages means that young people don’t go through the distress of changing service when they reach 18, and will also improve the consistency of care they receive. Expanding the service also means we will be able to reach more young people earlier, and before their problems become too great.

“We have had some amazing results so far and although the new-look service is still in its infancy, it is already making a huge difference to both our patients and their families.”

The nine-strong team offer a wide variety of help for people with eating disorders, including nutritional therapy with a specialist dietitian, psychological therapy, family therapy and help with the social aspects linked with the illness. They also work closely with GPs and other NSFT specialists, while also providing meal support in people’s homes, colleges or schools.

As well as facilitating a parents group, the team will also carry out educational work and try and visit as many schools as they can to raise awareness of eating disorders, the warning signs and where people can go for help.

“We offer a range of evidence-based treatment, and will create a bespoke package for each patient, depending on their individual needs,” added Lydia. “For some people, part of their recovery can involve helping others, and we will do what we can to assist with that too.

“We are also there to help parents and be strong for them, especially when they feel like they are going through their worst nightmare. We will work with them to give them the confidence to take control of their child’s condition and stand up to the eating disorder.

“Our ultimate aim is to treat everyone – regardless of their age – early and help them find their identity so that they can be discharged from the service and go on to lead a healthy life.”

Service user ‘Birdie’ (not her real name), has suffered with anorexia for more than 20 years. She has been receiving support from the team for some time, and has described them as an “invaluable” part of her ongoing recovery.

“To have the support and encouragement of the team who know this illness inside-out is crucial, and something that I'm extremely grateful of,” she said.

“At the onset of my illness in 1993, I genuinely believed that I could 'make it on my own'. How wrong I was! A major regret is that the level of expertise I draw upon now was not available when I was a lot younger, and the stark reality is that I missed out on what could have been the best years of my life.

“Nevertheless, in spite of all the adversity I've faced in the interim, I'm still here and doing my best, but it would be all the harder a task if I didn’t have the team backing me every step of the way. I certainly couldn’t do it without them.

“I would reassure other sufferers that with their eating disorders team behind them, they are not alone.”

The service takes referrals from GPs and other health professionals, such as school nurses. For more information about eating disorders awareness week, please click here.