Health chiefs make U-turn on decision to close eating disorder service

Health bosses say they have reversed a decision to close Newcastle's Richardson Eating Disorder Service

A general picture of the exterior of the RVI - Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle
A general picture of the exterior of the RVI - Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle

Health bosses have made a U-turn on the closure of an award-winning eating disorder unit in the North East.

Earlier this year it was announced that the Richardson Eating Disorder Service (REDS) at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary would be axed, sparking fierce opposition from many service users.

The move meant no in-patient beds would be available in Tyneside, with vulnerable adults having to travel to Darlington and further afield for life-saving treatment.

Now health chiefs have said that five beds currently available at REDS will be commissioned for patients in the region.

Campaigners have today welcomed the news but say they continue to have concerns that as many as eight eating disorder patients are currently being treated in Sheffield, Glasgow, Norwich and London through lack of inpatient beds in the North East.

A spokesperson for the North East Eating Disorder Action Group said: “We cautiously welcome the news that Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust will retain five commissioned eating disorder inpatient beds at the Richardson Eating Disorder Service.

“It is a move in the right direction and we hope it will open debate about a more equal spread of commissioned eating disorder services throughout the region in time for the next tendering process.

“The five beds are occupied at present and we are delighted that these patients can continue to receive excellent treatment from known and trusted professionals.”

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust will continue with NHS England to open a new eating disorder intensive day service at Benfield House, Walkergate Park, Newcastle.

The new facility will provide day treatment and out patient services, and it is expected that it will be open its doors early next year.

A joint statement from NHS England and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust said: “A meeting has been held between NHS England and the two current providers of eating disorders services within the region, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV).

“As a result of this meeting, NHS England is going to commission 20 in-patient beds in the region; this will include the existing 15 beds in Darlington provided by TEWV and five beds currently open in Newcastle provided by NTW at the Royal Victoria Infirmary.

“It has also been agreed that NTW will continue to work to establish a new intensive day-care service in Newcastle, which it is hoped will be open to patients in early 2015.

“Both providers and NHS England will work together on reviewing patients currently admitted in the North East and out of the region. The aim will be to identify those who can be discharged safely to intensive day care within the region as greater capacity becomes available.

“NHS England is committed to minimising the number of people who are sent out of the region for inpatient care. However, it is clear that it will not always be possible to do this given the significant pressure on beds nationally and that on occasions it will still be necessary for patients to be admitted to units outside the North East.”

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah recently met with Health Minister Norman Lamb to call for eating disorder inpatient beds to stay in Tyneside.

She said: “I am really pleased that the campaign to save REDS has been successful and the decision to close the service has been reversed as I know that is what so many eating disorder sufferers and their families were desperately hoping for.

“We need to make sure that we retain these inpatient beds permanently and that the needs of patients and carers are fully taken into consideration in the future.”

Meanwhile, Steven Brown, 33, of Blaydon, Gateshead, who has used REDS to help him successfully battle anorexia, set up on an online petition to call for the service to remain and more than 4,500 people put their names to it.

He said: “I’m absolutely delighted to see that a decision has been made to keep five beds in Newcastle. It is a fantastic start to providing an important service. We will watch with great interest to see what is going to happen with the new day service.”

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