Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are serious mental health problems. They can have severe psychological, physical and social consequences. Children and young people with an eating disorder often have other mental health problems (for example, anxiety or depression), which also need to be treated in order to get the best outcomes.
It is vital that children and young people with eating disorders, and their families and carers, can access evidence-based, high-quality care as quickly as possible. This can improve recovery rates, lead to fewer relapses and reduce the need for inpatient admissions.
The Access and Waiting Time Standard for Children and Young People with an Eating Disorder was published in 2015, and applies to children and young people up to the age of 19. The standard states that by 2020, 95% of those referred for assessment or treatment for an eating disorder should receive NICE-approved treatment within one week in urgent cases, and four weeks in routine/non-urgent cases. The ability of services to meet this standard has been monitored since 2016.
Between Q1 2016-17 and Q4 2018-19, the percentage of patients starting urgent treatment within one week of referral increased from 64.9% to 80.6%. The percentage of routine cases starting treatment within four weeks of referral also increased over time, from 65.1% in Q1 2016-17 to 82.4% in Q4 2018-19. Despite this improvement, waiting times for children and young people with an eating disorder need to be reduced further if the 95% target is to be met in 2020.
In Q4 2018-19 (January to March 2019), 351 urgent cases and 1,781 routine cases started treatment for an eating disorder. Children and young people were designated as being an urgent or routine/non-urgent case based on a clinical decision that was received and recorded on local IT systems.
283 children and young people with an urgent referral started treatment within one week in Q4 2018-19, and 1,468 patients with a routine referral started treatment within four weeks. However, some patients that started treatment had been waiting longer than 12 weeks since referral.
About this data
This indicator uses referral-to-treatment waiting time data for children and young people with an eating disorder. Their wait ends during the quarter that NICE-approved treatment was started. The referral is classified as urgent or routine by the community eating disorder service, based on the level of risk that the child or young person is thought to be exposed to. This may include physical risk, psychiatric risk, safeguarding or other areas of risk. The data covers children aged up to 19 years old. Due to small numbers referred in some areas, suppression rules have been applied to the published data to mitigate risks of case disclosure.
For more information, please see the Access and Waiting Time Standard for Children and Young People with an Eating Disorder and NHS England's Guidance and Risk of Disclosure document.