Large spike in eating disorder referrals leads to delay of new Peterborough and Cambridgeshire project
A large spike in referrals for eating disorders in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire has led to the delay of a new project.
The huge increase is linked to the coronavirus pandemic, while the people being referred are said to be of higher risk, leading to huge pressure on local services.
According to a new report by the county’s NHS commissioning body, urgent referrals rose from four in April 2020 to 16 in June 2021, while routine referrals rose from 15 to 40 over the same time period.
In addition, the number of referrals to Peterborough charity Personalised Eating Disorder Service (PEDS) has risen from 10 to nearly 60.
The rapid rise in need for support - and the higher levels of complexity - is said to have led to a greater demand for hospital beds. A report from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group states: “The small capacity of this service means an impact on both CYP (Children and Young People’s) and adult Emergency Department community services supporting very unwell patients in the community whilst they await an inpatient bed.”
Outlining the intense demand, the report adds: “The implementation of the Eating Disorder Exemplar Project, initially funded by NHS England and approved by the governing body on November 5, 2019, has been detrimentally impacted by Covid-19 due to the increase in referrals, acuity and the need to pause transformation work to focus on managing demand, restoration and recovery.
“This has resulted in the formal launch of the new service being delayed until October 2021.
“It is unclear as to whether or not this trend will continue, however, current figures appear to suggest it will.”
The rise in demand is said to have led to changed ways of working, including more online working and “longer waiting times”.
The report also mentions key risks. These include: “Service capacity issues and potential patient safety concerns as assessments and treatment are delayed,” and that the lack of formally commissioned specialist eating disorder support leads to a rise in A&E presentations, “causing pressures on community services and core acute wards”.
A spokesperson for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We have continued to care for patients with eating disorders throughout the pandemic and work closely with our healthcare partners to continually evaluate and make improvements to the eating disorder services we commission.
“There is still work to do and we remain fully committed to enhancing existing services as well as creating new sources of support for patients, including investing in our collaboration with voluntary sector and charity organisations.”
The CCG said it had launched a medical monitoring pilot in Peterborough and appointed a General Practitioner with Special Interest for eating disorders, as well as worked with third sector organisations to increase capacity.
The new Eating Disorders Exemplar Project is expected to launch later this year with new pathways opening for patients.
The PT has highlighted the complexities of eating disorders and the historical problems locally which were highlighted following inquests into five young women who died from anorexia.
Simon Brown, whose daughter Emma was one of the five, is a trustee at PEDS and is part of an NHS steering group led by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.
He has called for the Government to invest in more front-line and community services, improve education and training and start recording accurate data on a mental illness which ends up killing one in five sufferers.
To contact eating disorder charity Beat, visit: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/contact-us.
To contact PEDS, visit: https://www.pedsupport.co.uk/.
Anyone suffering a mental health crisis can call the First Response Service which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to those in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who call the NHS 111 helpline and select option 2.