The number of children waiting more than four months after an urgent referral for an eating disorder at the end of 2021-2022 was more than seven times higher than the same period last year.
The data showed that at the end of the fourth quarter of 2021-2022, 94 children were expecting more than 12 weeks after urgent referral, which was the highest figure of all time compared to 13 at the end of 2020-2021.
The latest NHS Data on waiting times for child care for eating disorders in the population also showed that more than 1,900 children were waiting for treatment in late March. Of these, 24 were waiting for urgent treatment – last year there were 130.
Of those children, nearly 40 percent waited more than three months, according to an analysis by the charity Beat and Mind.
NHS performance while waiting for these services also fell to new lows: 61% of children were seen on urgent referrals within one week, and 67% of routine referrals were spotted on four weeks in 2021-22. This is the lowest figure since the beginning of recording in 2016-17.
The NHS’s national target is to ensure that 95 per cent of children are seen within a week after an urgent referral and four weeks for a regular referral.
According to two charities, out of a total of 2,632 emergencies that began treatment in 2021-22, only 1,607 began treatment within a week’s assignment.
Sophie Corlett, Mind’s director of external relations, said: “Our government is shamefully misleading children and young people with eating disorders at a time when they need help the most. Eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates from any mental health problem. Children who need immediate NHS treatment for eating disorders should always be screened within one week, but some children still expect treatment after twelve weeks. It is irresponsible and shameful. “
“Without urgent support and investment, our mental health system will continue to fail not only adults when they need help the most, but also children, with potentially fatal consequences.”
The longest waiting lists were in the southwest: at the end of March, 123 children and young people were waiting for emergency care, and 376 – for routine treatment.
NHS data cover waiting times only for people with eating disorders, and also do not apply to adult services.
This news comes amid growing demand for mental health services for children and young people, when a record high number of appeals was recorded in late 2021.
Tom Quinn, Beat’s director of external relations, said: “The pandemic has had a devastating effect on those with eating disorders, and many have experienced increased anxiety and isolation over the past two years. We have seen more and more people seek help about eating disorders for the first time, worsening symptoms in those who have eating disorders, and relapses in those who were recovering.
“NHS staff are working incredibly hard to support their patients, and more children and young people are starting to take treatment for eating disorders than ever before. But NHS services for the treatment of eating disorders are incredibly overstretched and underfunded, and have not provided the support needed to meet the ever-growing demand for the treatment of eating disorders. It threatens the lives of young people. “
He called on the Government and the NHS of England to urgently develop a fully funded plan to restore mental health. The government is currently consulting to develop a new 10-year plan for mental health services.
Contacted the NHS of England and the Department of Health and Welfare for comment.
The Beat hotline is open 365 days a year from 9 am to midnight on weekdays and from 4 pm to midnight on weekends / holidays on 0808 801 0677. Mind has a line of confidential information and support, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (open lines 9 am – 6 pm, Monday – Friday)