Herefordshire and Worcestershire’s children’s eating disorder services have strived to continue meeting all national waiting time targets, despite a significant rise in demand.
In Worcestershire between March and July 2021 the team saw a near 300% rise in referrals which is a continuation of an increase being felt across both counties and nationally since the start of the pandemic.
Despite this, the team have worked hard to continue meeting national waiting time targets which has meant the majority of local children referred with an urgent need being treated within 1 week, and all other cases within 28 days.
Elaine Cook-Tippins, Clinical Services Manager within the Eating Disorder Service, said: “We are really proud that we have been able to manage such a big increase in demand while at the same time continuing to treat the vast majority of children referred us within 28 days - and within a week for more urgent cases. It is really important that children experiencing a serious eating disorder get the help and support they need as quickly as possible and while the team have been under real pressure over the last 12 months, they have worked really hard to ensure the increase in referrals has not led to longer waits.”
The Children’s Eating Disorder Service is part of the wider CAMH (Child and Adolescent Mental Health) service which is rated Outstanding in Worcestershire by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the national regulator of healthcare services. It specifically treats eating disorders in children and young people between the ages of 8 to 17 and a half and is made up of a team of mental health professionals who provide a range of treatment options including family-based treatment, psychoeducation, individual therapy, dietetic support and ongoing medical monitoring which assess any wider health implications.
“We provide a range of treatments depending on what is appropriate for the child or young person and, since the increase in demand more recently, we have starting running virtual clinics which allow us to support more children and families, and we have expanded our physical health monitoring support with our wider team at the Trust which helps us provide a more rounded service to young people,” added Elaine.
According to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health a number of factors are thought to have contributed to increased stress, deterioration in young people’s mental health and an intense focus for some on eating and exercise during the pandemic. These include, isolation from peers during school closures, exam cancellations, loss of motivating extra-curricular activities such as sports, dance/drama/youth clubs; an increased use of social media with young people concentrating on unrealistic ideas of body image; being forced to quarantine (a particular problem for many students newly arrived at university); worries about families’ economic problems; illness or death of loved ones, and fears about contracting the virus.