A Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by SR News can reveal that hundreds of children have accessed treatment for eating disorders over the last three years.
Information provided by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust shows that since 2016, one four-year-old and two six-year-olds have received treatment from the Eating Disorder Intensive Community Treatment Service.
In addition, the number of children and young people who have accessed the service rose from 148 in 2016 to 197 in 2017. And it could be set to increase again, with 185 children already receiving treatment this year.
The information is in keeping with NHS Digital figures which show that nationally, children and young people’s admissions for eating disorders rose 92 per cent in the last six years.
A spokesperson for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust commented: “Eating Disorders are complex and can develop from a range of psychological and socio-cultural factors as well as life events and trauma. There is no particular factor which would indicate why a person would be predisposed to developing an eating disorder.
“The number of people directly affected by eating disorders in the UK has increased significantly and a factor contributing to this may be due to a national increase in the awareness of eating disorders. This in turn has led to more people asking for help and therefore an increase in referrals into Eating Disorder Services.”
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust provides hospital inreach and community support to young people and their families to manage their condition and prevent hospital admission.
Rebecca Field, head of communications for Beat, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity, said: “While the rise in children and young people being treated for eating disorders doesn’t necessarily mean the problem is getting worse, it is clear that there is a vital need for local services with the funding and resources to provide specialist care fast.
“The Government has allocated an extra £30 million every year for children and young people’s eating disorder services and this is very welcome, but more must be done to ensure this money reaches the frontline services where it is most needed.”
Ms Field added: “The sooner someone gets treatment for an eating disorder, the better their chances of recovery.”
The Beat Youthline is open 365 days a year via phone, email, anonymous one-to-one webchat or social media. Anyone worried about their own or someone else’s health should contact Beat’s Helplines here