Eating disorder patients in Northumberland are being failed by the NHS.
That’s the view of the the North East Eating Disorder Action Group (NEEDAG), which has raised concerns about the “inhumane” regional allocation of beds.
Information released last week by the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows the number of patients admitted to hospital for eating disorders in the county more than trebled to 41 between last year, from 13 in the same period the previous year.
Yet Northumberland patients are no longer admitted to the Richardson Eating Disorder Service (REDS) at the RVI in Newcastle. Instead they have to be treated at a unit in Darlington, a two-hour, 100-mile journey for patients and their families in north Northumberland.
.NEEDAG believes NHS England’s policy of funding a single regional eating disorder unit fails to meet sufferers’ needs.
A spokesman for the group said: “This policy is in direct conflict with NICE guidelines which say that patients with anorexia nervosa should be treated ‘within reasonable travelling distance’ to enable the involvement of relatives and carers in treatment’. It makes no sense at all for our local, award-winning unit at the RVI in Newcastle to lose its inpatient beds.
“Local sufferers want to be treated as close as possible to the support of their friends and families and do best when they are. Sending them around the country when there are vacant beds in Newcastle is inhumane and is a policy that cannot be sustained when demand is growing. It needs to be changed as a matter of urgency.”
A spokesperson from NHS England’s Northumberland area team said: “We want people who experience eating disorders to receive the highest possible standards of specialised care.
“Since 2011, around £18 million has been spent in the north east to support the development of regional specialist inpatient units and intensive home treatment services, designed to provide a high quality, responsive alternative to hospital-based care.
“The regional adult eating disorders inpatient and day services are commissioned by NHS England as a specialist service. The 15 inpatient hospital beds for adults are in Darlington and the 12 young people’s inpatient beds are in Middlesbrough.
“Day treatment and outpatient appointments for eating disorders are still provided from the RVI by a specialist team of staff.”