Coronavirus and Eating Disorders Visit the hub

Funding for young people’s eating disorder services diverted despite rising demand

Clinical Commissioning Groups in England increased their spending on children and young people’s community eating disorder services by just £1.1m in 2019/20, despite having received an extra £11 million in funding for these services, a new report has found. This increase in funding was allocated by NHS England to help services cope with increasing referrals.

The report, commissioned by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Eating Disorders and researched by Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, is based on an analysis of financial data published by NHS England. This analysis found that only 15% of CCGs increased their spend in line with the increase in additional funding they had received from NHS England for these services.

In addition, 21% of CCGs spent less on children and young people’s community eating disorder services in 2019/20 than in 2018/19, despite a substantial increase in demand for help.

41% of Clinical Commissioning Groups spent less on community eating disorder services for children and young people in total than the amount of ‘additional’ funding they had received from NHS England.

Spending was found to vary significantly across the country, with spend per head varying from £12.71 to £0.66. The median amount spent per head was £4, but 7 CCGs reported a spend of less than £2.

Andrew Radford, Chief Executive at Beat, said:

‘Early intervention saves lives, and this diversion of funding has limited services’ ability to deliver it. Frontline staff have been working tirelessly to help as many people as possible, but in many areas have been put in an extremely difficult situation due to lack of money and resources.

‘It is completely unacceptable that so many CCGs spent so little despite the extra funding they were given, to the extent where 21% spent less than in the previous year.

‘These figures pre-date the coronavirus pandemic, which has increased pressure on eating disorder services, so it is now more urgent than ever that allocated funding makes it to frontline services.

‘The Government must hold NHS leaders to account to make sure every penny goes towards benefiting children and young people in need of help.’

Wera Hobhouse MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eating Disorders, said:

‘Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, and we know that early intervention and access to specialist treatment saves lives. NHS England has continued to allocate extra funding to Clinical Commissioning Groups for children and young people’s community eating disorder services, but this report shows that much more needs to be done to ensure this money reaches the frontline services, particularly now as they face unprecedented numbers of referrals.’

Scott Benton MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eating Disorders, said:

‘The NHS Long Term Plan – published in 2019 - pledged a big increase in funding for these services, as referrals were rising rapidly even before the pandemic. In recent years there has been a lot of progress in improving access to specialist treatment for young people with an eating disorder in England. It is crucial that in future this new funding reaches frontline services so that this momentum is not lost.’