The number of patients admitted to hospital for eating disorders in Northumberland has more than trebled, figures have revealed.
Information by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows there were 41 incidents of people admitted to hospital for eating disorders in Northumberland from November 2012 to October 2013.
This was more than treble the 13 cases in the previous 12 months, and works out at 13 cases per 100,000 people. This is the highest rate in the North East and one of the highest in England.
Dr George Rae, chairman of the North East British Medical Association, said: “We have to take eating disorders very, very seriously because there are usually significant problems underlying it and patients need support and specialist help.
“A possible increase in numbers could be the fact that more eating disorders are being picked up and people are more aware of the fact that they can access help and support.”
The HSCI Figures come at a time that a campaign group is calling for improved services for people with eating disorders in the North East.
Seriously ill adults cannot be admitted for a stay at the Richardson Eating Disorder Service at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary unless all specialist centres around the country are full. Those who need inpatient treatment in the area must travel to the region’s only NHS commissioned centre in Darlington, almost 40 miles from the Tyneside service.
In a few cases, it is believed that patients have had to travel as far afield as York and Leeds when no beds have been available in Teesside, despite there being a service in Newcastle.
Last night, the North East Eating Disorder Action Group (NEEDAG) said: “NEEDAG believes that the shocking increase in the number of local people requiring inpatient eating disorder treatment reinforces the call for NHS England to rethink its policy of regional inpatient units.
“It makes no sense at all for our local award-winning unit – The Richardson Eating Disorder Service – at the RVI in Newcastle to lose its inpatient beds when demand is increasing and there is a national shortage of specialised eating disorder inpatient units. Local sufferers want to be treated as close as possible to the support of their friends and families and do best when they are.
“National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines say that this is what should happen.
“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.”
Since 2011, approximately £18m has been invested in the North East to support the development of regional specialist inpatient units and home treatment services. This includes 15 inpatient hospital adult beds based in Darlington and 12 young people’s inpatient beds in Middlesbrough.
A spokesperson from NHS England’s Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear area team, said: “This investment ensures patients receive the best possible specialised treatment to meet complex needs, whether this is in a highly specialised unit, through outpatient care or at home.
“The regional adult eating disorders inpatient and day services are commissioned by NHS England as a specialist service.
“In the rare case that a bed in Darlington is not available, the patient will be referred to another specialised unit commissioned by NHS England. In the last 12 months, less than a handful of patients have needed to travel out of the region.”