Advising with empathy and experience

Parents travel 8,000 miles to see anorexic daughter.

Parents Stephen and Julia Hollings had to travel more than 8,000 miles to see their seriously ill daughter, Fiona, 19, who is battling anorexia, in just four months.

Fiona was treated in a specialist eating disorder unit in Glasgow, almost 400 miles away from her family home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

Initially Fiona was treated in a general mental health ward in Oxford, where her health deteriorated.  It took more than a month to find a suitable bed but the only one available was in Scotland.

Stephen said: "That distance hurts. It makes what is already a sad, tough and emotional episode much harder. It's unacceptable and the government needs to wake up to the fact that more resource is required to fund hospital beds to look after these young, vulnerable people properly."

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust said it was unusual for a patient to have to travel so far away. A spokesman said: "We do not think it is right for patients and their families to have to travel 300 miles for treatment and efforts were made by the trust and colleagues in Scotland to provide a local bed as soon as possible. We are working hard to address the issues around demand for specialised eating disorder care beds."

It is estimated that more than 1.6m UK people are directly affected by eating disorders. Latest figures from NHS Digital show that hospital admissions for eating disorders in England are increasing. In 2015-16 there were 2,913 admissions - up from 2,287 in 2011-12.

Meanwhile, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that the number of deaths in England and Wales where an eating disorder was the underlying cause has also risen. There were 17 deaths in 2014, compared with 28 in 2015.

Doctors say that the demand for treatment of illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia is outstripping supply.

Acting consultant clinical psychologist at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Victoria Mountford, said it was a constant juggling act to find available beds.

She said "Our service is full most of the time which sometimes means we may have to prioritise one patient over another and delay one patient's admission which can increase their anxiety."

NHS England, which is responsible for commissioning eating disorder services, said that there are only 186 specialist eating disorder beds for children and adolescents in England. It said that bed capacity was a finite resource and, due to pressure in the system, patients could be placed farther away than it would like, but every effort was taken to bring the patient back closer to home.

The Department of Health said it was unacceptable for people to be sent hundreds of miles away for care and it was looking to eliminate out-of-area placements by 2020-21.

A spokesperson said: "We are investing £150m on making sure community services are available for young people in every area of the country as we recognise the majority of problems start before the age of 16. There are also plans to develop standards that will improve care for adults with eating disorders."

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