The Eating Disorders Association (EDA) has issued an urgent call to the Minister for Health
EDA has called for the Department of Health to urgently fund the critical services needed to provide life-saving care to those suffering from eating disorders. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates of all psychiatric conditions due to both physical complications and the prevalence of suicide.
With the latest figures indicating that the number of eating disorder sufferers in Northern Ireland has doubled in the last seven years, EDA says the inadequate funding of both statutory and voluntary sector support services is costing lives. In 2011-12, 272 people were diagnosed with an eating disorder, but this figure jumped to 518 in 2018-19.
Speaking at today’s launch of EDA’s manifesto ‘Call For Action: Eating Disorders Do Not Wait’, which outlines the six areas of response required from the Department of Health, Aileen Uí Dhonnghaile from the charity said people are being failed as they can’t reach the specialist support they need.
“Services in Northern Ireland are under crippling pressure and Trust based services can only deal with the most severe and advanced cases. This is leading to higher hospital admissions and ultimately costing lives as evidence shows that early intervention is critical. As a voluntary based organisation EDA is playing a crucial role by plugging the care gaps that Trust services are not able to provide, but we are reaching breaking point.”
EDA has seen a growing increase in the numbers relying on their service and in many cases are providing the primary source of care for patients and their families.
Mrs Ui Dhonnghaile continued;
“With rising numbers and increasing referrals from GP’s and community mental health assessment centres, we are struggling to meet demand. Previously we could have offered someone a support appointment within days but now that time frame is nearer to six weeks.Our manifesto sets out clearly the steps that need to be taken including early intervention care, intensive treatment programmes, family support services and greater understanding both in the medical community and general public of what eating disorders are and how the conditions can be effectively treated.In some areas, for example in the case of binge eating disorders, there is no provision at all and that is simply not good enough. Eating disorder services have been promised increased funding and implementation of services in the past and it hasn’t happened. The time for broken promises has passed and we now need immediate action from the Department.”
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Daniel Baker, who hosted today’s event said;
“It’s important that we break the stigma on mental health and this includes support for eating disorder sufferers and their families. We need to support those who are most in need in our society and I commend the work of the Eating Disorders Association as they facilitate everything from 1-1 peer support to a 24 hour helpline. These are vital services in our communities.”