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The patients with treatable eating disorders who are dying before the NHS can help them

A record number of eating disorder patients are not getting the life-saving treatment they need due to lengthy waits, leaked NHS data shows.

More than 8,000 adults are waiting to be seen for therapy, according to internal figures from NHS England – the highest figure recorded since data collection began in 2019. In March 2021, there were around 6,000 adults waiting, while it was less than 2,000 in March 2019.

One leading doctor warned that delays were leading to avoidable deaths, while multiple coroners investigating the deaths of nine patients since 2021 have repeatedly called on the NHS and ministers to improve services to prevent more.

An investigation by The Independent can also reveal that long waits have led to a woman, 24, taking her own life while waiting two years for appropriate care, and patients being admitted to hospital because their conditions became so severe they developed life-threatening physical conditions.

Dr Agnes Ayton, the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ lead for adult eating disorders, said long waits meant patients were “dying avoidably” because under-resourced services were forced to turn them away or leave them waiting for years. Anorexia has the highest morality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

“One important thing is eating disorders are treatable, people can get better with time and treatment. We shouldn’t accept anorexia has the highest mortality rate because a lot of these deaths are avoidable and treatable. We should be aiming to provide high-quality care,” she said.

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Source: The Independent, 6 February 2023

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