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‘Young people need help’: parents call for change in eating disorder care


It is more than eight years since Averil Hart died after being found passed out in her university room, but the words left in her diary are etched in her father’s mind. “She said: ‘dear God please help me’ and that was four or five days before she collapsed,” says Nic Hart. “It sums up what many young people desperately need. They need help. Here we are eight-and-a-half years on and what has changed?”

Averil, who was diagnosed with anorexia aged 15, was taken to Norfolk and Norwich University hospital at 19 in a “severely malnourished” state but received no nutritional or psychiatric support during her four-day admission, according to an inquest into her death. She was then urgently transferred to Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge.

The coroner found a litany of failings. She was treated by doctors who knew “practically nothing” about anorexia. There had been no follow-up from the local eating disorder team and a failure to provide life-saving treatment. The inquest was the last in a series of coroners’ examinations of five women who died from eating disorders while in the care of the NHS in the east of England.

“I suppose listening to the NHS arguments on delivery … they would say it is an organisation of a million people and these things [real changes] take time,” her father says. “But you wonder what it takes to turn all these well-meaning policies that seem to come up from time to time into action.”

Hart says we need to learn from how the UK has tackled potentially life-threatening conditions such as sepsis and think about how we can “train clinicians to turn this around quickly”.

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Source: The Guardian, 6 June 2021

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