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Eating disorder statistics

Eating disorder statistics

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses affecting an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK. Anorexia Nervosa is particularly dangerous, with the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. If not caught early, eating disorders are much harder to treat.

While there is a national waiting time target for children and young people accessing services, there is still no target for adults. A recent report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that people with eating disorders can wait up to 41 months for treatment, with adults waiting on average 30% longer than under 18s.

Research by Dr Agnes Ayton (Eating Disorder Psychiatrist, Oxford Health) showed less than two hours on average is spent on teaching about eating disorders in UK medical schools, with one in five providing no teaching at all. A survey of medical schools by the General Medical Council (GMC) echoed Dr Ayton’s conclusion that doctors are not sufficiently prepared to manage patients with eating disorders. Even psychiatrists have no obligation to gain competencies during their training. The Government must keep the pressure up on the GMC, medical schools and colleges to improve training.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists reports and resources can be accessed here.

19,000 people needed hospitalisation in England last year for eating disorders. That figure has doubled over the last decade but there has been no rise in the number of NHS beds. England has just 649 beds for patients with eating disorders. Units are regularly receiving patients with a BMI below 12 as they wait for beds to become available. It means all patients, even children, are being sent hundreds of miles away from their families for months on end (source: Politics Home).

Two people with eating disorders are admitted to hospital every hour in England, official figures show. That means two people whose illnesses have become so severe that they need specialist NHS care, with a hidden toll of trauma and distress among loved ones (source: The Times).


Updated February 2020

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