Funding boost for children and young people’s eating disorder services

Posted 11/09/2019

The NHS in England has this summer pledged a major boost to the funding of children and young people’s eating disorder services. This is an important victory for Beat and all those who have campaigned for early intervention and a system where all young people with an eating disorder can access evidence-based treatment.

The funding which has been invested in recent years has meant that in many areas far more children and young people with an eating disorder have been able to quickly access high quality treatment. As part of this transformation, services have been expected to provide treatment to all children and young people within 1 week if they are in urgent need or no more than 4 weeks in all other cases.

However, over this time the number of young people being referred for treatment has continued to rise and so it is crucial that these services have the funding to meet the needs of all these young people.

The NHS Long Term Plan, published in January set out the vision for the NHS in England for the next decade. We welcomed the plan’s pledge to boost funding for children and young people’s eating disorder services and to continue to implement the current waiting times targets to access evidence-based treatment, whilst improving access.

Since 2016/2017 NHS England has provided an additional £30m per year for these services. The NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan 2019/20 – 2023/24 - published this summer - pledges to increase this significantly, with £41 million to be allocated in 2019/2020, with this increasing further to £52 million in 2020/2021, followed by £53 million in 2021/2022.  

The £30 million provided annually in recent years was intended to be added to any money already being spent on these services, but there was a concern that this might not happen. The figures for spending at the national level are encouraging as, according to NHS England, total spending on children and young people’s eating disorder services was £46.7 million in 2017-2018, increasing to £50.6 million in 2018-2019. However, NHS England data suggests that in some local areas funding may not have reached the frontline, with total spending below the amount of ‘additional’ funding they had been provided with. This risks the persistence of a postcode lottery in access to specialist treatment for children and young people, and so we will be campaigning to ensure this doesn’t happen – and for all funding to reach frontline services. Whilst funding is key, of course it is also crucial that services can recruit, train and retain enough staff.

Local areas are writing five year plans for how to implement the vision of the NHS Long Term Plan and there are important opportunities for patients and the public. This pledge by NHS England to further increase the amount of funding provided to local areas for children and young people’s eating disorder services will support Beat and all our campaigners as we call for continued improvements in access to quality treatment.

We’re asking you to start this important conversation with the NHS in your area.

Find out more here