At this week’s meetings of the governing bodies of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, members agreed on the urgent need to address capacity issues caused by the increase in referrals over the last year and the subsequent lengthened waiting times for assessment and treatment.
The agreement to invest £932,000 will enable recruitment to begin for 15 new patient-facing posts with service provider Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, and the commissioning of more support services from voluntary community and social enterprise organisations, including Wednesday’s Child and Beat– with the aim of providing immediate support to children, young people and adults who are waiting for assessment and treatment by the Eating Disorder Service.
This investment marks a positive step forward for services that support those with an eating disorder. It is part of a bigger review, with plans to overhaul the entire eating disorder pathway in order that it can offer speedy and effective interventions to those in need.
Dr Imran Qureshi, a Leiston GP and NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG’s mental health lead, said: “The Eating Disorder Service team is working incredibly hard to ensure everyone who needs support receives it as quickly as possible.
“Yet, we know that because of the big increase in demand from people of all ages, they are struggling and people are having to wait too long. We need to address that urgently and have committed to doing so.”
Dr Rosalind Tandy, a GP in Haverhill and NHS West Suffolk CCG’s mental health lead, said: “This extra money will help boost immediate support, but importantly too we have longer-term plans to redesign services so they are much more nimble and effective and over the coming months we’ll be working on those plans, in conjunction with patients and our partners."
James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk, said: “I’m delighted that our local CCGs have approved significant funding to support people suffering from eating disorders. Some of my most challenging constituency cases have involved young people suffering in this debilitating way. I’m particularly pleased that the resource will be going directly to the voluntary sector.
“Only last week in the Queen’s Speech debate on health I set out my long-standing belief that we should be seeking to divert NHS funding directly to our local mental health charities, who in my experience can make a real difference to those struggling with the wide range of mental health conditions. Combined with the investment in Personality Disorders and Mental Health practitioners to support our ambulance service, this shows a real determination from our CCGs to address the wider mental health challenge that is likely to have been significantly exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdown. I hope that this package can bring genuine relief to some of my most vulnerable constituents”.
Debbie Watson, founder and director of East of England eating disorder organisation, Wednesday’s Child, said: “I’m delighted to hear of the investment being made into eating disorder support in this region – particularly at a time of such increased need.
"Wednesday’s Child have long been keen to work alongside the clinical commissioning groups and the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust to be part of the solution for both adults and young people in our region.
“Voluntary sector organisations such as ours have a lot to offer when working in collaboration with statutory services, and we are excited about bringing our innovative and lived-experience approach to eating disorder care across the region in the months ahead.”