Leeds eating disorders team celebrate five years of improving care

A community mental health team is celebrating its fifth birthday after helping hundreds of people across Leeds recover from eating disorders – like 20 year old student Anna.

The Leeds Community Treatment Service is a team of 12 mental health professionals who’ve been working with adults with eating disorders across the city since 2013.

They are marking their five year milestone during Eating Disorders Awareness Week (26 February to 4 March 2018) when people across the land are being encouraged to “sock it to eating disorders” and challenge the stigma surrounding the issue.

According to the national charity Beat, people with eating disorders can sometimes face an average wait of up to three and a half years for specialist treatment. In Leeds, over 90% of people who need help from the service are assessed within two months of being referred.

The Leeds Community Treatment Service is part of Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s wider eating disorders service, based at the Newsam Centre in Seacroft. The team manages the complex needs of people with severe eating disorders in the community as an alternative to being in hospital by offering earlier intervention and an intensive home treatment programme.

Anna DohertyOne of those people is 20 year old student Anna Doherty (pictured). Anna was referred quickly for help by her GP in February 2017 as part of the FREED research programme.

Anna said: “Being able to get the right help early changed my life. I was a shell of a person two years ago and now I’m running to be elected as the Leeds Student Union Welfare Officer.

“I spent two hours in my first appointment with a psychiatrist who told me I had anorexia and I just didn’t believe it. I didn’t see myself as being unhealthily – I was just getting on with life and coping as best I could.

“When I think back, I was trying to get to a certain weight as I thought it would make me happy. When I started university and moved in with other girls, things just got worse. I started feeling guilty if I ate something or didn’t go to the gym. I didn’t say anything as I felt I was being judged. In the end I was able to talk to them about it and they were so supportive. They weren’t doing anything wrong, I was seeing and hearing things differently because I was ill.

“Thank goodness for the community eating disorders team. Within a day or two of my referral someone was in touch with me. It felt like a lifeline. I was given a choice of treatment plans which made me feel like I had some control. The team were so warm and friendly – it really made a difference. Without this help I’d probably have ended up as an inpatient on the ward.”

Community team celebrate achievements

Since 2013, the Community Treatment Service has improved quality of life and experiences for service users and their carers, as well as reducing waiting times and time spend in the inpatient ward with figures showing there has been a 30-40% reduction in the number of hospital bed days per year for Leeds eating disorders patients.

Dr Rhys Jones (pictured), Consultant Psychiatrist and clinical lead for eating disorders at the Trust, said: “Our community team has been socking it to eating disorders for five years and has improved the lives of hundreds of people.

“Without help early on, people with severe eating disorders such as Bulimia or Anorexia can end up in hospital units as inpatients. Most of the time this would be with us in the Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders but they can be transferred out of area if our ward is full.

“By getting involved early on when people start developing symptoms, our expert team can make a huge difference. They’ve consistently improved the quality of life and experiences of patients, and reduced the need for admission to hospital.”

Plans to expand this community service model across West Yorkshire and Harrogate are currently being developed through the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership.


More about Eating Disorders

The majority of people with eating disorders treated by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust are classified as having moderate to severe anorexia nervosa (people with a body mass index of 17 or below) and severe bulimia nervosa (someone with daily bulimic behaviours).


What is Anorexia?

Anorexia is an eating disorder and serious mental health condition. People who have anorexia try to keep their weight as low as possible by not eating enough food or exercising too much, or both. This can make them very ill because they start to starve. They often have a distorted image of their bodies, thinking they are fat even when they are underweight. Men and women of any age can develop anorexia, but it’s most common in young women and typically starts in the mid-teens. Find out more at www.nhs.uk/conditions/anorexia


What is Bulimia?

Bulimia is an eating disorder and mental health condition. People who have bulimia go through periods where they eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time (binge eating) and then make themselves sick, use laxatives or do excessive exercise, or a combination of these, to try to stop themselves gaining weight. Men and women of any age can develop bulimia, but it’s most common in young women and typically starts in the mid to late teens. Find out more at www.nhs.uk/conditions/bulimia


How much of a problem is it?

A 2015 report commissioned by the Beat Eating Disorders charity estimates more than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. Eating disorders tend to be more common in certain age groups, but they can affect people of any age.

Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men will experience anorexia nervosa at some point. Bulimia nervosa is around five times more common than anorexia nervosa. Eating disorders usually develop in adolescence or early adulthood but people of any age can be affected.

Recent research shows that up to 6.4% of adults displayed signs of an eating disorder and up to 25% of those showing signs of an eating disorder were male.

The number of inpatient admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of an eating disorder increased by 91% between 2010 and 2017 according to figures released by NHS Digital and published by The Guardian media group in February 2018. Their report said a surge in the number of teenage girls and women in their early 20s was behind this dramatic rise and that admissions for those aged under 19 for anorexia went from 1,050 to 2,025 over the period examined.


The picture for Leeds

For Leeds with an adult population of around 600,000 this means over 38,000 people are likely to be affected by eating disorders during their lifetime.


Where can I get help?

If you think you need help or someone you know needs help for an eating disorder, please approach your GP in the first instance.

National eating disorders charity Beat can also help. They have helplines and online support groups to give people a place to feel listened to and supported.

Adults can call 0808 801 0677

Younger people can call their Youthline on 0808 801 0711.

Their helplines are open 365 days a year: 3pm-10pm.