15 September 2021 – A report investigating investment in eating disorder research in the UK has been published today.
Major advances are needed in our understanding of what causes eating disorders, how best to treat them and ideally how to prevent them developing. Without this, eating disorders will continue to represent a significant public health issue, devastating millions of lives while leading to high costs to the NHS and the UK economy. The impacts of COVID-19 on demand for eating disorder services means that the need for advances in knowledge and innovation through research is more urgent than ever.
The ‘Breaking the Cycle’ report, compiled by Beat on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Eating Disorders sets out the findings and recommendations from the APPG’s inquiry into research funding, conducted from December 2020 to Spring 2021.
Despite the prevalence and severity of eating disorders, they receive very little research funding. Total UK investment amounted to just £1.13 per person affected per year between 2009 and 2019. Eating disorders account for around 9% of the total number of people with a mental health condition in the UK, but from 2015-2019, they accounted for just 1% of the UK’s already severely limited mental health research funding. The inquiry found that a historic lack of investment has led to a vicious cycle. As a result, there are few active researchers and research centres in the UK and therefore little research is published. This has helped stigmatising attitudes persist, which reinforce the small capacity of the field and its lack of funding.
The report makes recommendations for actions that research funders, universities, the NHS and researchers should take to break the cycle of underfunding in eating disorder research and achieve the much-needed advances in knowledge that research can deliver.
11 May 2021 - A report investigating funding for children and young people’s eating disorder services in England has been published today.
The “Short-Changed” report, compiled by Beat on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on eating disorders, follows the promising step in 2019/20 when NHS England gave Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) an extra £11m of funding for children and young people’s community eating disorder services (so increasing the total additional funding allocated for these services from £30m to £41m).
The report shows that this increase in funding did not reach frontline services. Many CCGs spent only a fraction of the extra funding – collectively, spending on children and young people’s community eating disorder services was just £1.1 million more in 2019/20 than in 2018/19. In other words, 90% of the total additional funding did not reach the services it was pledged to.
In order to have the best chance of a full recovery, it’s vital that people with eating disorders have access to specialist treatment at the earliest opportunity. The access and waiting time standard for children and young people with an eating disorder, introduced in 2015, has led to major improvements in access to treatment in England. But increasing demand for underfunded services will mean people missing out on support when they need it most.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, referrals to children and young people’s community eating disorder services were on the rise, which NHS England recognised when it provided the extra funding for 2019/20. As referrals continue to rise to record highs due to the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that the extra funding pledged reaches children and young people’s community eating disorder services.
The All-Party Parliamentary group on eating disorders was formed in 2019 and since then it has been bringing together MPs from across Parliament to improve policy, in particular improving access and treatment for people affected by eating disorders and measures that support prevention and early intervention.
Beat’s Chief Executive Andrew Radford said:
“Beat is delighted to continue to provide the Secretariat for the All-party Parliamentary group on eating disorders. It is very encouraging to see politicians from all parties coming together to ensure more people can access specialist, effective treatment for eating disorders.
“More people than ever are in treatment for these serious mental illnesses, but there is still an need for improvements in policy. On average it takes nearly three and a half years for someone to get treatment after first falling ill. We would not accept such a long delay for other conditions, and we need to ensure people can get the help they need quickly. The sooner someone gets treatment, the better their chance of a rapid and sustained recovery.
“The causes of eating disorders are still little understood, and if we are to end the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders, we need more research into how these devastating illnesses could be prevented or cured.
“We look forward to working with MPs and other stakeholders to help make that vision a reality.”
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Eating Disorders, Wera Hobhouse MP said:
“I am delighted to have taken over as Chair of the APPG following the 2019 election. Eating disorders are an issue which I am extremely passionate about and have been campaigning on since I arrived in Parliament in 2017.
"The APPG has brought together MPs from across the House who wish to better understand eating disorders and the complicated issues that surround the treatment of individual sufferers. Eating disorders affect over 1.25 million people in the UK and many MPs will have encountered eating disorder sufferers in their constituencies.
“The group will be working to recommend improvements to service provision across the United Kingdom, including reducing waiting times and ensuring everyone has access to good quality treatment across the UK.
“We will be engaging with service users, providers, third sector organisations and Government to improve service provision and increase awareness of eating disorders.”
Notes from February 2021 meeting
Notes from 2020 AGM
Notes from 2019 AGM
Notes from September 2020 meeting
Notes from 2021 AGM
Income and Expenditure Statement 2020/1
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