Monday, October 07, 2013

The Dangerous ED Waiting Game

Eating disorders are mental illnesses that can have a devastating impact on those suffering and everyone around them. They can be fatal.  The longer someone battles with an illness like anorexia, the more consuming it becomes, the bigger the medical impact and the less likely they are to recover.

But recovery IS possible. That's why there's a fresh call for the Government to do more to help suffers make the break from their eating disorders and end a seriously dangerous waiting game.

Despite the need for quick intervention and care, research from the UK's leading eating disorder charity BEAT's found that more than a quarter (26%), that's one in four sufferers, have to wait longer than six months before they're referred to a specialist service. 

That's not the worst of it, 8% said they had to wait for longer than a year between seeking help from their GP and starting outpatient treatment. This is truly shocking and a seriously dangerous, heartbreaking waiting game. 

The poll of 500 eating disorder sufferers revealed shocking figures on NHS waiting times, which the charity says are 'unacceptable' and need parity with 18-week targets set out for physical health, and I say are just down right dangerous. 

As someone who's been let down and saved by NHS services, I know all too well the devastating reality of not getting specialist care before anorexia consumes someone's life. I wasn't taken seriously and was made to feel not 'sick enough' by a service. 

What happened? Well, even under the care of a community therapist who told me I just had 'low self-esteem' and issues with food, I dropped a significant amount of weight in a very short space of time. My BMI hit critical and THEN I was taken seriously, sort of. 

I moved GP and counties and was very nearly 'lost in the system' but after being given an 8-week wait for assessment following a referral from my GP, I broke down. I couldn't cope, no chance. I called the EDU and screamed that if I wasn't seen NOW, I wouldn't bother recovering and I'd die. 

They acted, I got seen, diagnosed with anorexia and treatment started within a matter of weeks. I know I'm one of the lucky ones. Even so, my weight plummeted further and I became more consumed by anorexia.

I dread to think what would have happened if I'd stuck with the original NHS waiting time? I have a feeling I may have become one of the 20% of sufferers who die from anorexia, making it the mental illness with the highest mortality rate. 

I'm not alone in not feeling 'sick enough' for treatment, 74% strongly agreed or agree that they were made to feel like this too, with 40% being told their BMI wasn't low enough to access treatment quickly. 

The problem is the longer someone goes without help with recovery, the more severe an eating disorder becomes. The poll found that almost three quarters of sufferers felt their illness became more severe whilst on a waiting list. Mine certainly did. 

Not only is the culture of leaving eating disorder sufferers on waiting lists with no clear targets seriously putting lives at risk, it's actually making the problem worse. Worse for the families and the friends of sufferers but for the NHS itself, because the longer someone has to wait for help fighting an eating disorder, the longer it takes to recover and let's be honest, the more it costs too. 

That's if sufferers haven't given up hope of recovery before they're seen;  60% said the longer they waited, the less motivated they were to even change.

Let's hope action is taken before it's too late, it's about time this dangerous waiting game was ended because recovery is possible, but waiting times make it a hell of a lot harder than it should be.


You can read more on BEATs research and download the full survey results here: FULL SURVEY 
See what BBC Newsround had to say on the poll's findings HERE
Read more about the work I'm doing in Staffordshire with my MP Jeremy Lefroy HERE

If you are on a waiting list or need to access treatment, please get in touch with BEAT and get help now. or call the helpline on 0845 634 1414

1 comment:

Rebecca V said...

The thing that struck me in this report is when were told you had 'eating problems and low self esteem' rather than an ed. Despite being diagnosed with AN and being referred for treatment, this is what i keep being told and all it does is 'motivate' me to lose enough wait so that they take me seriously. Why is it that we are made to felt like until we are at death's door, we don't need help?! Surely stopping AN in it's tracks before it destroys a life is better than being there to rebuild one after the monster has consumed the victim. Especially in such a competitive illness, telling someone they aren't 'thin' enough to warrant help, just adds fuel to the already powerful fire.