Wales

Teens referred to hospital for eating disorders hits high

Eating disorders Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Latest figures show an 8% annual jump in the number of teenagers admitted to Welsh hospitals after an eating disorder diagnosis

A record number of teenagers are ending up in Welsh hospitals after being diagnosed with an eating disorder.

In 2013-14 there were 75 girls and three boys admitted for care, aged between 13 and 19-years-old.

The number being treated was up 8% on the previous year - and represents an average increase in admissions of 36% over a decade.

The Welsh government said new "community intensive" treatment teams would help tackle the problem.

Campaign group, Cwtched, which is calling for a specialist eating disorder unit to be established in Wales, says current support and treatment is patchy.

'Vulnerable'

"As far as provision is concerned, I think you would find that it's in pockets, [dependant on] wherever you are living. A post code lottery, if you like," said Cwtched's Sian Pierce.

Former anorexia patient, Keira Marlow, 23, from Brecon, Powys, said teenagers can be particularly at risk, especially girls - who make up over 90% of the cases referred to hospital.

"I think you can be quite vulnerable to it because of all the pressure you are under - handling school and dealing with growing up and dealing with all of the changes that are happening," she said.

Eating disorder charity Beat said the "great lack" of information about instances of the eating disorders meant it was impossible to be sure of the size of any actual increase in cases.

It said the latest figures could reflect "better and swifter diagnosis by GPs" and other parts of health and social services.

Case study: 'It was so wrong'

Image copyright Keira Marlow
Image caption Keira Marlow, 23, was diagnosed with anorexia when she was 17

Keira Marlow, 23, from Brecon, Powys, was admitted to a general psychiatric hospital following her anorexia diagnosis at 17.

She said: "It was just so wrong. I was the youngest person there. Nobody else there had an eating disorder. Everyone else had a serious mental illness, like schizophrenia.

"Even the nurses said they had never seen someone with an eating disorder before. I just ate to get out."

The Welsh government said it had invested in improving treatment provision, with community treatment for those over 18 receiving £1m a year.

Since 2013, an extra £250,000 a year has also been made available to improve treatment for children and young people.

Extra funding

"The extra funding has enabled the recruitment of specialist staff, improved training for existing staff, created extra outpatient clinics and the increased the availability of high care beds in Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services," a government spokesperson said.

"From this month community intensive treatment teams will be available across Wales, meaning many more young people with eating disorders and other disorders can be cared for in their community without need for hospital admission."

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