CONNECT: a new adult eating disorders service for West Yorkshire and Harrogate

Thousands more people now have access to specialist community eating disorders treatment thanks to a new NHS service.

CONNECT: The West Yorkshire and Harrogate adult eating disorders service, launched in April 2018. It has been set up as a two-year pilot project funded by NHS England as part of their ‘new models of care programme’.

CONNECT, which is part of Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, aims to provide equitable access to NHS care for adults with eating disorders across the West Yorkshire and Harrogate area – something that had not been in place until its launch.

Dr Rhys Jones

“We know that in many places across the UK people with eating disorders often get a rough deal, sometimes having to wait more than three years to access specialist treatment” says Dr Rhys Jones (pictured), Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead for the new CONNECT service.

“Treatment options for patients can also be very limited and patients sometimes have to travel long distances to access care. CONNECT offers the option of home-based treatment and early intervention to everyone across West Yorkshire and Harrogate – previously only available to patients from the Leeds area.

“Patients, their families and carers consistently tell us that they prefer community or home-based treatment and evidence shows us that home-based treatment has better outcomes and reduces the need for lengthy hospital admissions.”

CONNECT now provides one integrated specialist service, made up of four multi-disciplinary sub-teams, offering community and inpatient treatment across the whole West Yorkshire and Harrogate area.

It consists of:

  • An East Community Team covering Leeds, Harrogate and Wakefield
  • A West Community Team covering Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale, Craven, Calderdale and Kirklees
  • An Inpatient Team based at the Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders (YCED) in Leeds serving the whole area
  • A Dual Diagnosis community service for adults with eating disorders who also have issues with alcohol or drug use.

Since the launch of the new CONNECT service in April 2018:

  • The community teams have received 387 new referrals
  • The inpatient ward has seen a reduction in length of stay and currently has no waiting list for beds
  • No patients from across West Yorkshire and Harrogate have been placed out of area. Five were out of area in April 2018 all of whom have now been repatriated to the Connect Community teams.

* Information accurate as of October 2018

“Since April we’re now treating people who previously had no or very little access to specialist treatment,” adds Dr Jones.

“Treatment is also being provided far earlier than it was before, and at home when needed. The number of people accessing community-based treatment across the region has more than doubled which means that more people are getting the treatment they need sooner and closer to home. At the same time the length of inpatient admissions has gone down.

“I’m also delighted to report that all patients placed out of their local area for treatment have now returned home with support from our CONNECT community teams.”

Building on success in Leeds

The new CONNECT service builds on the success of the Leeds-based Community Treatment and Outreach Service. Since it started in 2010 the service has consistently demonstrated that it improves clinical outcomes. It has reduced hospital admissions by 50% and is highly valued by patients, their families and other health professionals.

Following on from this success, in 2017 the Leeds service introduced an award-winning early intervention service called FREED – standing for First Episode and Rapid Early Intervention in Eating Disorders. This was part of a multi-centre research study in partnership with South West London and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

“FREED has introduced a ground-breaking approach to treatment for early intervention cases,” says Dr Jones. “Patients are assessed and begin specialist treatment within four weeks of receipt of the initial referral. In addition to this fast track system, all efforts are made to ensure that the service is as welcoming and engaging as possible with a particular focus on involving families and carers from the outset if the patient wants that.

“This early intervention service has also been an overwhelming success and is now on offer to patients from across West Yorkshire and Harrogate.”

Staff from the CONNECT team contributed to a video for GPs (below) to help them identify the early signs of an eating disorder and to support them to reach out to people who may be struggling with eating disorders.


Why did we need CONNECT?

“Before the launch of CONNECT there was an inconsistent approach in way that eating disorders treatment was being provided across West Yorkshire and Harrogate,” says Dr Jones. “Patients in some areas had access to a full package of specialist care, whilst patients in other areas had very little, or in some cases nothing at all.

“There was also an inconsistent approach to inpatient treatment with many patients being admitted to out-of-area inpatient units, sometimes for more than a year, which was largely due to a lack of specialist community treatment in their area.

“We felt that this was unacceptable, and something needed to change.”

The four teams that make up the CONNECT service includes doctors, psychologists, therapists, nurses, dietitians, occupational therapists, social workers, health support workers and peer support workers. They work together ensuring an integrated and co-ordinated approach to treatment which is personalised to meet the patients’ needs.

“We think the CONNECT service will make a real difference for people with eating disorders across the region, and could potentially be used as a national template for delivering high quality and equitable eating disorders care across the UK,” adds Dr Jones.

Find out more about the new CONNECT service, as well as loads of useful information for patients, carers and professionals, at

The Connect eating disorders east team

The friendly faces of the CONNECT eating disorders east team