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No more lives lost to eating disorders

Tuesday 14th February 2023

An investigation by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) has found that multiple failings in care led to the deaths of at least 19 people from eating disorders in England over the last 5 years. These deaths could have been prevented.

The HSJ has uncovered severe failures to protect vulnerable people, including patient safety risks being missed or poorly managed, a lack of knowledge about eating disorders among doctors and other health professionals, and delays to accessing appropriate treatment.

Tom Quinn, Beat’s Director of External Affairs said:

‘It’s disgraceful that so many lives have been lost to eating disorders that could have been saved with better care. These deaths were avoidable. This is a national crisis that the Government must urgently address.

A 2017 report published by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman found that failings in care led to the avoidable deaths of three women from eating disorders. It is completely unacceptable that more than five years later, preventable deaths are still occurring, and more families are now unimaginably changed forever.

‘NHS staff are doing everything they can to support every patient, but they do not have the resources that they need. The Government must urgently develop a fully funded long-term plan to invest in eating disorder services and their workforce. This must include ensuring quality training for all medical and other health professionals is in place and that services can recruit and retain the staff they need, while making use of non-clinical staff where appropriate. The Government must also hold local NHS leaders to account to make sure that funding pledged for eating disorder services reaches the frontline.

‘It’s also extremely alarming that adult eating disorder services are not getting the investment that they need, leading to dangerous delays to treatment and avoidable tragedies. The Government must introduce a fully funded waiting time standard for adults with eating disorders to ensure that people over the age of 18 are treated as quickly as possible, as well as urgently investing in eating disorder services for people of all ages.

‘The pandemic has had a devastating impact on those with eating disorders, with many experiencing increased feelings of stress, isolation and anxiety, and many more people have needed eating disorder treatment during the last few years. But the alarms have been sounding for years about failings in care and not enough has been done to protect lives.’

How can I help?

These were preventable deaths. The Government must address this national crisis.

Stand with us and sign our petition to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, calling on him to commit to ensure that no more lives are lost to eating disorders.

Where can I access support?

If you have been affected by this story, we’d like to reassure you that help is available. Our friendly team supports people with eating disorders as well as their loved ones 365 days a year via our helpline, online web chat, and online support groups. You can find out more here.

If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, we’d urge you to contact your GP and ask for an urgent appointment.

For any families who have lost a loved one to an eating disorder, we want to send our deepest condolences for your incredibly difficult loss. We would recommend reaching out to your GP who should be able to share details about the support available in your local area. We would also recommend contacting Cruse Support – a charity dedicated to providing support for people across the UK that have lost a loved one.