Saturday, January 04, 2014

Whispering about eating disorders in Westminster

When I have my mind set on doing something, it often becomes hard to stop me striving to change the thing  I feel passionately about. That comes in handy sometimes.

And there's not much that comes close to matching how determined I am to raise awareness of eating disorders and push for quicker access to specialist services for people trapped by them.

That's why at the start of last year I wrote to my local MP Jeremy Lefroy, during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, urging him to listen and to take action to change things here in Staffordshire and right across the UK.

We're lucky in Stafford to have an excellent eating disorders service, but even our neighbouring NHS trusts are still short of the specialists and when they do have them, the challenge is getting access. Quickly. Even The Royal College of Psychiatrists say the level of specialist care out there is not good enough. 

If nothing else, I hope other services can learn from the multi-disciplinary approach I know I'm lucky enough to get. I know cash is short, but when eating disorders alone rack up healthcare costs of £80-100 million every year and affect at least 1.6 million people, it's got to be worth investment, right? 

If we think of the wider economy, eating disorders cost an estimated £1.26 billion in England alone. Shocking, yet preventable

Jeremy Lefroy (second left) with the EDU team at SS&SFT and me.
Since writing, I've met with Mr Lefroy at his Stafford office, he's visited my EDU, met with staff and learnt more about how things work here - I'm trying to arm him with enough of the facts to take the issues to the top. The very top.

And that's what he and I did, we arranged to meet with the inspiring Brooks Newmark, MP for Braintree, who's also an eating disorder survivor himself. 

So, in November I caught a train to London, hoped off at Westminster, jumped feet first into the heart of Parliament and met Jeremy and Brooks at Porticullis House, avec an large americano, of course. 

We discussed the findings of Beat's shocking Waiting Times research, which highlighted 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 OP service, in which time many people's desire to recover reduced. 

I shared my experience and was able to hear first-hand about Brooks' own battles and why he is also keen to keep eating disorders on the agenda, and of course we spoke about ideas for change.

Brooks Newmark MP
Of which I have lots, firstly education, education and more education to break down the stigma in schools and arm teachers, friends, parents and doctors with the facts to provide early intervention. Who could argue that this would be a way to PREVENT eating disorders from taking control at all? 

But when they do start to ruin lives? Well, that's when the Government needs to ensure the right services are in the right place and at the right time. It would cost the NHS a lot less to treat the early signs of eating disorders, than it does right now to rescue people from crisis.  

This is what I want to keep at the forefront of politicians' conciousness, until we can see changes to the way eating disorders are viewed and until more people are getting help, sooner. I can't do this alone, and knowing who they know, and with me pushing from behind, I'm sure both MPs can ensure our voices are heard in the right ears. 

There is much more to do and so much more to say, but as I think both Jeremy and Brooks have already realised, I'm not going anywhere any time soon.

I will go to Parliament, speak openly, tweet and meet as many people, as many times as it takes until I feel change is happening. 

Just you watch me. 

1 comment:

Kowareta Doll said...

wow! this is incredible and so inspiring. It was so brave of you to speak out like that. Thank you, for giving those who don't have the ability to speak out, to be heard :')