A campaign group has hit out at the NHS due to a system that sees Northumberland patients with eating disorders having to travel to Darlington for treatment.
It comes as figures show that the county has one of the highest rates of inpatient admissions for the condition in England.
Information from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) revealed that the number of patients admitted to hospital for eating disorders in Northumberland more than trebled to 41 between November 2012 and October 2013 from 13 in the same period the previous year. This works out at 13 per 100,000 people – the highest in the north east and one of the highest in England.
But while outpatient services are provided by the Richardson Eating Disorder Service (REDS) at the RVI in Newcastle, inpatient beds are provided in Darlington.
The North East Eating Disorder Action Group (NEEDAG) says NHS England’s policy of funding a single regional eating-disorder unit is failing to meet the needs of sufferers and is campaigning for locally commissioned inpatient beds in Newcastle as well.
A spokesman said: “NEEDAG believes that the shocking increase in the number of local people requiring inpatient eating-disorder treatment reinforces the call for NHS England to rethink its policy of regional inpatient units.”
A spokeswoman from NHS England’s Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear team said: “We want people who experience eating disorders to receive the highest possible standards of specialised care.
“Since 2011, around £18million has been spent in the North East to support the development of regional specialist inpatient units and intensive hometreatment services, designed to provide a high-quality, responsive alternative to hospital-based care.
“This investment ensures patients receive the best possible specialised treatment to meet complex needs, whether this is in a highly specialised unit, through outpatient care or at home.”