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Suffolk launches new eating disorders service

Young people from east and west Suffolk will now receive the highest quality help to overcome eating disorders as Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has just launched a new-look, enhanced service.

The Children and Young People's Community Eating Disorder Service (CEDS) is now up and running, offering a gold standard of dedicated, bespoke care to people aged up to 18 with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.

Funded with £329,000 from NHS England and £60,000 from NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, it will build on the existing services already in place in Suffolk in line with new national guidance. As well as making provision consistent across the county, it will expand the care which is available to reach more people at an earlier stage of the illness, in turn reducing the need for people to go into hospital.

CEDS will provide a range of different interventions, all of which are in line with best practice set out by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care) and will be tailored to each individual's needs. This includes help changing behaviour, medication, nutritional advice, psychological help, meal support, family therapy and education about the effect which losing weight can have.

The services will respond to the broader needs of families and carers as well as the child or young person with an eating disorder. This could include supporting the family with techniques to help manage eating disorders and information about additional support services or expert advice.

NSFT has also contracted BEAT, the eating disorders charity, to provide training and education to help Trust staff and primary care colleagues recognise the symptoms so that people can get help at the earliest opportunity. BEAT will also deliver training to school staff across Suffolk, focusing on increasing understanding, recognition and response to risk factors and signs of eating disorders. BEAT will additionally deliver training workshops for pupils and provide Young Ambassador talks in schools, aimed at increasing young people's understanding about eating disorders, the risk factors and where to go for help. BEAT will provide online peer support groups for young people, designed for anyone under 18 that is struggling with an eating disorder or difficulties with food.

Sue Miller, Associate Director of Delivery and Change at NSFT, said: "This new-look service will provide a real gold standard of care for this vulnerable group, ensuring they receive the right support at the right time.

"One of its key aims is identifying people and families affected earlier on so that they can access help in the community or their own home and without the need for a hospital admission. We will also be working closely with colleagues in the acute hospitals to ensure that young patients who are admitted with an eating disorder are given the right support to allow them to return home quickly."

Additional staff have been recruited to deliver the enhanced service, including a consultant, family therapist, specialist nurses and two assistant practitioners, who will work with children, young people and their families directly in their own home to support them at mealtimes.

The service will aim to see routine referrals within four weeks, urgent cases in one week and emergencies within 24 hours.

Dr Rosalind Tandy, a GP in Bury St Edmunds and mental health lead for NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group said: "Young people who suffer eating disorders shouldn't be dismissed as being individuals who are fussy about food or have slimmer's disease. In fact, eating disorders are severe mental illnesses with serious psychological, physical and social consequences. A significant number of people with anorexia nervosa die as a result of the condition, with anorexia nervosa having the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders. The lives of many young people are badly impaired due to long-term health conditions which result from having an eating disorder, such as brittle bones, poor circulation, infertility and kidney damage.

"This new service is so important as young people will have access to an intensive level of support and care which will give them the best possible chance of recovery, help them regain a healthy weight and maintain a positive relationship with food. 

"A vital aspect of this new service is the training which will be provided to school staff, which will really help them better understand and recognise the symptoms of eating disorders and give them the confidence to take the appropriate action." 

Louise Dunne, Interim Head of Services (Staff and Service Delivery Management) at Beat, said: "Beat are delighted to have been commissioned by NSFT to work in partnership to contribute to delivery of their exciting new Children and Young People's Community Eating Disorder Service. Beat's work, aligned to our own strategic objectives, will support the Trust's aims of early recognition, early intervention and improving access by raising awareness, improving knowledge and education, and engagement with young people throughout Suffolk, enabling young people to get the right help at the earliest opportunity."