I pay tribute to organisations like Beating Eating Disorders (Beat), which campaigns tirelessly for improved services. I was concerned to learn that a research study by Beat found that on average, three-and-a-half-years pass between symptoms of an eating disorder emerging and treatment starting.
Eating disorders are serious mental health problems which can have severe psychological, physical and social consequences. Early intervention is crucial for people with eating disorders, the sooner that they get the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full recovery.
In 2015, NHS England published guidance which established standards and requirements for providing community-based eating disorder services for children and young people. The guidance sets a new access standard, to be achieved by 2020, that 95% of patients should be treated within four weeks of their first contact with a designated healthcare professional. For urgent cases, the standard is due to be set at one week.
I am disappointed that the first performance statistics published against this standard revealed both referrals for routine and urgent cases failed to meet the 95% target in all quarters of 2016 -17. These targets have also been missed in quarter 1 and 2 of 2017-18. It is clear that more needs to be done if the Government is to achieve this target by 2020.
Despite repeated promises from the Government to give mental health parity with physical health, mental health funding fell by £600 million between 2010 and 2015. There are fewer doctors and 5,500 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010, and it is now clear that money intended for mental health has been used in many areas of the country to plug funding gaps in the wider NHS.
At the General Election the Labour manifesto pledged at least an extra £1 billion spending for mental health services. The manifesto also promised to ring-fence mental health budgets and invest in early intervention by increasing spending on mental health services for children and young people. Unfortunately we did not win the election.
I will continue to press the Government to do more to improve outcomes for children and young people with eating disorders.