January 17, 2006

Have an ED, Go to London!

Eating disorder sufferers seek London helpUlster sufferers seek help
By Nigel Gould

17 January 2006 An increasing number of Ulster people are travelling to London for specialist help with severe eating disorder conditions, it can be revealed today.

Dozens have gone to the St George's Hospital-based eating disorder specialist unit for ssessment and treatment - at a cost of millions to the NHS - as there is no such help here. Since 2000, some 87 of the province's most seriously ill patients have sought help there. Last year saw the highest number of the millennium with 22 people from across Ulster attending the hospital - 18 of whom received treatment.

Ann McCann, founder member of the Belfast-based Eating Disorders Support Group, said they were receiving calls every day. "People, particularly young women, are desperate for help," she said. "Those who go to St George's are very ill - it is difficult otherwise to get seen there. This is only for the really ill patients. There is no real alternative. "Eating disorders have been neglected over the years, yet they have the highest mortality rates of all psychiatric illnesses."

The shock figures were obtained from Shaun Woodward in reply to a parliamentary question from DUP MP, Iris Robinson. In addition, it was revealed that during 2004, health boards spent over £1m on sending 11 patients to St George's for treatment.

Mrs Robinson said: "The number of local patients requiring both treatment and assessment for treatment outside the province for eating disorders has steadily increased in recent years. "A short time ago, I visited St George's Hospital to see the work there at first hand and discuss the feasibility of creating an inpatient unit in Northern Ireland. It became apparent at that stage that enough local health care staff didn't have the very specialised training necessary to operate a full-time inpatient unit, and that it was better to concentrate on outpatient and day hospital facilities and seek to develop the skills base over a number of years."

Existing Ulster services for those with eating disorders suffered a setback nearly two years ago when Northern Ireland's only consultant, specialising in the conditions, retired. But cash has been provided for a new service which, it is hoped, will be up and running within the next few months.

Last year, the Department of Health promised £1m to Ulster's four health boards to fund the recruitment of an additional 18 specialist practitioners in eating disorders. Plans are also under way for the appointment of an additional consultant psychiatrist specialising in eating disorders. "This is good news," Ann added. "There is hope for 1,700 people with anorexia in Northern Ireland and some 17,000 with bulimia." My family thought I was going to die.

As her weight slipped to just 5st 12lbs, Jacqui King's worried family thought she was going to die. Battling both anorexia and bulimia during the lowest point of her life, the Co Down woman desperately needed help. "I would not want to go back to this time," she said. "The family thought I was going to die. I never did though. "You have to realise that with eating disorders you are trapped in this world. "But you do eventually have to ask yourself are you happy with this life? You have to get it into your head that being thin does not make you happy."

Now aged 42, Jacqui has been battling eating disorders since she was 16. Back then, there were no specialist services and Jacqui was sent to her local psychiatric unit. "At that stage I was about seven and a half stone. I went to a psychiatric unit but it did not inspire me with confidence.
"I was left to have my own personal battle to sort myself out. I assumed that being thin made me a better person. I got married at 23 and that stage I had bulimia as well. My husband did not know. I hid it so well. "Later I went to a private clinic in Glasgow and stayed there for two months. A year later I was at my lowest weight, 5st 12lbs." "Around 1997 my husband went to Northern Ireland's only specialist at that time. "I went to see her and it did help. Now, I am as recovered as I will ever be but I do not think you ever fully recover."

Anybody who wants further information about eating disorders should phone the Eating Disorders Support Group on 9023 5959.


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:15 PM

    Each year the NHS in the UK overspends on its budget and each year the governing bodies look for ways to limit the spending. Due to this I was astounded when I read the article 'Eating disorder sufferers seek London help' (see below), if it is genuinely the case that we over spend so much why are we shipping a handful of people from Ireland to London, surely it would be more cost effective to build a purpose built unit in the area it is needed? AND do patients with cancer, heart conditions, broken limbs have to wait until their life is in critical danger before they can receive adequate treatment?I am now waiting for the next headline to be ' Eating disorders to blame for NHS over spend!' Grrr
    Sarah Lou


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