Shorter eating disorder waiting times must also see improved access to services

Posted 09/08/2018

NHS England today released waiting time statistics for children and young people referred for  treatment for eating disorders, showing that the proportion of routine cases being seen within the target of four weeks has risen from 79.9% to 81.2% on the previous quarter, while the number of urgent cases being seen within targets has fallen from 78.9% to 74.7%.

Reacting to the figures, the UK eating disorder charity Beat’s Chief Executive Andrew Radford said,

“We welcome the indication that waiting times are getting shorter and that, nationally, services appear to be on track to meet targets for routine referrals by 2021.

“But there is still a postcode lottery when it comes to how long children and young people wait for treatment. While this is partly because some services are new and are still developing, the NHS must do more to ensure all local services have the resources to provide evidence-based treatment fast.

 “The Government has allocated an additional £30 million per year to meeting waiting times targets, which is very welcome, but not all of this money is going where it is meant to. The funding should go to the frontline services where it is needed.

“These waiting times standards only apply to children and young people in England, but adults have to wait longer than young people at every stage before receiving treatment and the Government must introduce waiting times standards for adults, too.

“Waiting times standards help sufferers who have already been referred for treatment but it still takes nearly three years, on average, for someone to realise they have an eating disorder and visit a GP. We know that the sooner someone gets treatment, the better their chances of recovery, so the Government must do more to ensure people are able to seek help fast.”

Notes to editors

  • Beat spokespeople are available for interviews and comment.
  • The figures published today show the length of time between referral and start of treatment for children and young people with an eating disorder in England. NHS England itself warns that the data is incomplete should be treated with caution.
  • NHS England publishes a guide to the figures specifically for press.
  • The figures show local variation. Services in the South-east and South-west saw under 70% of urgent patients within the target of 1 week, compared to over 70% or 80% for other regions. The proportion of routine cases within the 4 week target in the South-East and South-West were below 80% compared to over 80% for other regions.
  • NHS England guidance for Clinical Commissioning Groups stresses the importance of self-referral for children and young people with an eating disorder, but some services are still not accepting self-referrals. Beat urges the NHS to ensure self-referral for eating disorders is an option for all, as soon as possible.
  • Research published by Beat in November showed that on average it takes three and half years for someone to get treatment for an eating disorder after first falling ill. By far the longest delay is the time it takes for someone to realise they are ill and then to seek help.
  • Beat’s media guidelines are designed to help journalists report on eating disorders in an accurate and sensitive manner.
  • Beat is the UK’s eating disorder charity. More information at:

Contact information:

Jamie Osborn | | 01603 753316