New NHS guidance signals greater priority for adult eating disorder services in England

Posted 06/09/2019

The NHS in England has recently published two new documents that together represent a big step forward in our campaign for improved access to quality adult eating disorder services. The first ever commissioning guidance for adult eating disorder services sets out what patients and carers should be able to expect from these services, while the Mental Health Implementation Plan 2019/20 – 2023/24 outlines plans to pilot a four week waiting time standard for adults in select areas and to increase investment across the next five years for all ages (in particular for children and young people’s services). These are big successes for those who have campaigned for early intervention and improvements to the care available for adults, including all the Beat campaigners who have signed our petition and contacted their MP.

Commissioning guidance for adult eating disorder services

Guidance documents like this are key to the assessment of NHS organisations, so this publication will enable us to hold NHS leaders to account and ensure adult eating disorder services are of a high quality.

The new guidance highlights the importance of all areas having a specialist adult eating disorder service, with NHS England setting expectations that over time all adult services will: 

  • Remove any barriers and thresholds to accessing treatment (including BMI and frequency of binge/purge episodes)
  • Provide access to treatment for the full range of diagnoses
  • Provide evidence-based treatment.
  • Ensure all patients have a written care plan.
  • Support and empower families and other carers.
  • Ensure services are fully coproduced with people who have lived experience.

This guidance was informed by consultation with a group of experts. Beat was an active member of the group and helped ensure significant involvement from experts by experience, including both people who have used services and carers. The principle that services should be designed around the needs of patients and carers was central to the work of the group, and this is reflected in the final document. The involvement of experts by experience in the development of these guidelines is a really positive move, and shows the high regard with which the NHS holds our campaigners.

Stacey Bateman, a Beat campaigner who was involved says: “I think the piece of guidance which will stand out to most people is the acceptance of all presentations, regardless of weight or BMI. For too long, provision of treatment has been weight-driven, despite the fact that weight is just one symptom among many. It was incredibly inspiring to work with a group of people who were so passionate about improving care provision for adults with eating disorders”.

This new guidance will be invaluable to campaigners when calling for improved access to and quality of services for adults, as it will help us hold NHS leaders to account. However, how fast the guidance turns into real change for adults with eating disorders will depend largely on enough extra funding being made available. There is now an important chance to ensure that eating disorders are on the agenda in your area, by influencing what is included in local NHS plans.

Next steps

NHS England has pledged to increase investment in adult community mental health services over the next five years. Local NHS leaders are developing plans about how to spend this extra funding in their area.

The new commissioning guidance helps us make a stronger case than ever that they should invest in adult eating disorder services. We’re asking you to start this important conversation with the NHS in your area.

Find out more here

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