Hundreds of children and teenagers treated in Doncaster as eating disorders rise

Hundreds of young people were treated by Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber Trust for eating disorders as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the mental health of the nation's children.
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The NHS' mental health director said the health service has seen "greater numbers than ever before" as figures show a stark national increase in youngsters being treated for potentially life-threatening conditions like anorexia and bulimia.

NHS England data shows 208 children and young people began treatment for eating disorders at Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust between July 2020 and June 2021.

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That was up from 133 over the same period a year earlier and the 109 seen in 2018-19, before the pandemic hit.

The pandemic had a "massive impact" on those with eating disordersThe pandemic had a "massive impact" on those with eating disorders
The pandemic had a "massive impact" on those with eating disorders

Of the patients who began treatment last year, 27 had been the subject of urgent referrals, compared to three the year before and four in 2018-19.

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NHS rules state 95 per cent of urgent cases must begin treatment within a week, while routinely referred patients should be seen within four weeks.

The figures show Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber Trust saw 74 per cent of urgently referred young people on time, while 52 per cent of other patients started treatment within 28 days.

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Tom Quinn, of eating disorder charity Beat, said the pandemic had a "massive impact" on those with eating disorders and their loved ones, adding that it was unsurprising to see cases among young people rising.

He said anxiety, isolation and a lack of support had contributed to people developing disorders for the first time or relapsing, adding: "Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, and accessing specialist help as soon as possible leads to the best chances of making a full recovery.

"Every person with an eating disorder should be able to access high quality treatment in their local area as quickly as possible."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said eating disorders could have a devastating impact on sufferers and their families, adding that the Government is committed to ensuring young people in need of help get it.

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She added: "As part of our Mental Health Recovery Action Plan, we’re investing £79 million to expand children’s mental health services and opening up eating disorder services to an extra 2,000 young people.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.