Mother urges specialist anorexia aid for young in Wales

Helen Missen
Image caption Helen Missen's daughter, Sophie, was diagnosed with anorexia at aged 15

A mother whose teenage daughter was diagnosed with anorexia is campaigning for a specialist eating disorder service for young people in Wales.

Helen Missen will hand a petition next week to the Welsh assembly calling for help for the under-18s.

Mrs Missen, from Llanfyllin, Powys, said her daughter would have benefited from more tailored support.

The Welsh government said there was no timetable for a service but close links had developed with mental health teams.

Mrs Missen's daughter, Sophie, was referred to a child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS), which is run by psychiatrists, after her diagnosis at 15.

Mrs Missen said that was helpful but, over time, her daughter would have been helped by specialised treatment for her particular eating disorder.

"I kept feeling that the service we were getting was almost like taking your child over and over again with a broken leg to somebody who obviously understood what a broken leg was and how it should be made better but did not necessarily have the expertise and the stuff on hand," she said.

"With a broken leg you want an orthopaedic surgeon. You just want the specialist, I want the person who is going to be the best person for my child."

Mrs Missen eventually had to seek help outside Wales and the NHS.

But, she said, if Sophie had been over 18 she would have had access to specialists thanks to the Eating Disorder Framework (EDF), which the Welsh government introduced in 2009.

It created four small regional teams of specialists across Wales which were able to work intensively with people eating disorders before they became so ill they had to be admitted into hospital

Dr Menna Jones, who leads the team covering Cardiff and Vale and Cwm Taf health authorities, said: "We work with people who experience the most severe forms of eating disorders.

"We have a multi-disciplinary approach, so there are several members of the team and together we provide various forms of psychological therapies, dietetic support and occupational therapy as well," she said.

Major improvement

"The feedback that we've had has been very positive. Clients tell us they feel very much more supported because we're in the position to be able to have continuity of contact which might be difficult for those working in primary and secondary care."

Emily Beach, 25, of Tonyrefail, Rhondda Cynon Taf, was diagnosed with anorexia 10 years ago, and has experienced treatment for her eating disorder from both the child and adolescent and adult mental health services.

But in 2009 her family paid for her to have specialist inpatient care in South Africa.

But since the EDF was set up she has seen a major improvement in the support she receives from a "fantastic" team.

"Over the past two years I have been spoilt with my team of people, I've never ever had such a dedicated team. I've never had a team, to be honest," she said.

"If I need to see the dietician, there's someone there. I have occupational therapy appointments; I have weekly weigh-ins; blood tests with my community psychiatric nurse. I see a psychiatrist, a psychologist. "

Currently, this help is only available for adults in Wales, although the EDF is considering "potentially extending" that support to under 18s when "expertise, resources and infrastructure have been adequately developed".

Mrs Missen's petition, which will be presented on Wednesday, urges the Welsh government to fund a child and adolescent eating disorder service.

"To me it's a 'no-brainer'. They're putting money into adult services but it's almost too late then," she said.

"If they had the equivalent (of the EDF) for children and adolescents in Wales then I think the instance of adult eating disorders would be less complicated, less entrenched."

A spokesperson for the Welsh government said there was "no timetable" for such a service.

He added existing adult eating disorder services had developed close links with CAMHS teams across Wales with the aim of creating "pathways for young people suffering with eating disorders".

Eye on Wales is on BBC Radio Wales at 13:00 BST on Sunday, 8 July.

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