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More help for young people with eating disorders

The  Devare family

Hertfordshire’s specialist team which supports children and young people suffering from eating disorders is expanding its services.

East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Herts Valleys CCG and Hertfordshire County Council have given a £600,000 funding boost to the specialist eating disorders team at Hertfordshire’s Child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) to get extra staff so they can support even more families and do more work in the community.

The CCGs and council are working together to deliver Hertfordshire’s £2m CAMHS transformation plan to improve emotional wellbeing services for children and young people over five years. One priority is to enhance eating disorder services, which are provided by Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT).

“We really value the work being done by these specialists who are supporting young people and their families through difficult times,” said Watford GP Dr Rami Eliad, who leads on services for children and young people for Herts Valleys CCG. “Nationally, we know there’s a need for earlier intervention and prevention work to help children and young people who are developing eating disorders, and this is true in Hertfordshire, too.”

“We know at least 150 children and young people in Hertfordshire are living with an eating disorder right now and not all of them are seeking treatment,” said Dr Steve Kite, a Ware GP who leads on services for children and young people for East and North Hertfordshire CCG. “We’re investing in the community eating disorder service using a family-based treatment model because it has proven results and it means GPs can have confidence that when they refer young people that they will see the experts. It also means specialists can be involved in training school staff to recognise early signs and refer young people sooner.”

Kathryn, 21, from London Colney, believes she could not have recovered from anorexia without the eating disorders team, particularly advanced practitioner Penny Smith. “She always believed that I would get better and never judged me or was disappointed in me when things didn’t go well. She fought the illness with me and made me feel that we were a team fighting an enemy.”

Libby, 16, pictured, said: “It wasn’t overnight and there were setbacks when I struggled to eat different things, but after battling with my illness for over two years, I very gradually became less scared of food, and towards the end of my illness the fear sort of fizzled out.”

Penny Smith, Advanced Eating Disorders Practitioner at HPFT, said: “We’re using the extra funding to expand our team so that we can support more families, without long waiting lists and we can do more educational, preventative work with training programmes in schools. By enhancing our service we can be there to support the young people who need us as they move into adulthood.”

You can read Hertfordshire’s Transformation Plan for Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing 2015-17 here.