The NHS has pledged an additional £79 million towards paediatric mental health services, as demand has increased during the pandemic

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According to the charity Beat Eating Disorders (BEAT), nearly one in 50 individuals in the UK are affected by eating disorders, which can have a damaging effect on mental health.

The NHS has pledged an additional £79 million towards paediatric mental health services, as demand has shot up during the pandemic. The funding is likely to help at least 2000 more individuals begin treatment for eating disorders.

The NHS says it is is treating more children and young people than ever before for eating disorders, with nearly 10,000 starting treatment between April and December 2021. This translates to an increase of a quarter compared with the corresponding period in 2020 and an increase by nearly two-thirds since before the pandemic.

Claire Murdoch, NHS Mental Health Director, said: ‘NHS services remained open throughout the pandemic as hard-working mental health staff worked to deliver care to more people than ever before. The NHS continues to see record-high numbers of young people for eating disorders and it is vital anybody who might need care comes forward as quickly as possible so the NHS can get you any care you may need.’

Parents’ role is crucial

Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS Associate Clinical Director for Children and Young People’s Mental Health, urges parents to look out for certain behavioural signs in children suggestive of eating disorders, such as creating rules around what or how to eat, eating only a certain range of foods, or having a negative self-perception about their weight and appearance.

‘Parents can find information on potential symptoms, such as binge eating, feeling guilty after eating, and negative self-image, and other signs of a potential eating disorder are available on the NHS website and they should not hesitate to contact the NHS if they think their child might need some support,’ said Ms Murdoch.

Professor Chitsabesan has also authored a blog that advises parents, guardians, and carers on how to support a child or young person with an eating disorder.

Online support available

According to Professor Chitsabesan, young people and their parents seeking help and clarity on their concerns should make use of trusted online resources. BEAT has designated pages to assist young people struggling with eating disorders and provide them relevant advice.

Other support services in this area include MindEdSHOUTYoungMinds Parents HelplineSamaritans, and Better Health Every Mind Matters. Online information on how to access help and support can be found on the NHS website.

Concerns over lack of training in eating disorders

The Faculty of Eating Disorders Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists has expressed concerns about the limited number of NHS consultants being trained in eating disorders and many who are moving to independent practice.

They said in a tweet: ‘This is a potential risk for eating disorder services. Already, we are losing excellent colleagues to the private sector. Not everyone can afford private treatment. The independent sector doesn’t train the next generation, and there is no indemnity for research. It’s about profit.’

This article originally appeared on Medscape, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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