Eating disorders overlooked in important national mental health survey

Posted 01/10/2016

I wrote a blog post in October about our disappointment with the latest edition of the English ‘National survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing’, which had just been published by NHS Digital. NHS Digital describe this survey as “a rigorous assessment of the nation’s mental health”. However, when this latest edition was published, we found that they had not included eating disorders!

I said in that blog that NHS Digital would be running a consultation asking for feedback to help them improve any future survey. This consultation is now open and members of the public are invited to respond. It includes a question asking whether there were any topics that weren’t covered in the latest version, but that should be covered in future. You can respond by completing their online survey here, which should only take about 5 minutes. The consultation closes on 30 December 2016.The more responses they receive from people affected by eating disorders the better.

The ‘National survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing’ has a lot of influence on policy makers, so it is a great shame that eating disorders were not included. NHS Digital says on their website that the survey is used “in policy development, in planning services and in monitoring trends and changes in the nation's health and wellbeing.” It goes on to list some specific examples of data from the 2007 survey that influenced English health policy.

NHS England’s 5-year plan for mental health care – ‘The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health’ - made no specific promises about access and waiting time standards or new investment for the treatment of over 18s with eating disorders. The exclusion of eating disorders from this survey, meaning that we are left without an estimate for the number of adults who need help, can only increase the risk that their needs will be marginalized when commissioners in England are allocating their limited resources.

To have your say and call for this mistake to be corrected, please click here to take part in the consultation.

The rest of the UK

We also lack reliable estimates of the prevalence of eating disorders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These gaps must be addressed. If you live in one of these nations, you could take the following actions:

We highlighted this issue in Beat’s response to the Scottish government’s mental health strategy consultation and the new strategy is due to be published before the end of 2016.