Opportunity binge

New service to provide earlier support to young people with an eating disorder in

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Date published: 11 October 2021


Young adults in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale with an eating disorder including anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating are set to receive help sooner with the launch of a new service.

Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) is launching the new First Episode Rapid Early Intervention for Eating Disorders (FREED) service, an evidence-based early intervention model for eating disorders, tailored to the needs of young adults.

Eating disorders cause serious physical and mental health problems which can last decades and cause significant disruption to the young adult and their family.

The expanded service will target care to those aged 18-25 who have been living with a condition for fewer than three years, to tackle problems before they escalate. Those coming forward who would benefit from treatment will be contacted within 48 hours, with treatment beginning as soon as two weeks later.

The FREED service is based on a successful model shown to help 16-25 year olds, developed six years ago by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, FREED provides rapid access to high-quality care for people in the early stages of illness when treatment is most likely to be effective. 

A two-year follow-up study on FREED, published in October last year, showed that patients who were treated for anorexia nervosa via FREED had better clinical outcomes including a reduced need for day/inpatient care, compared to patients that were treated via standard care pathways.

One person who has benefitted from FREED is George, who has shared how her eating disorder worsened as she moved to London on her own, aged 21.

After persuasion from her family, George visited the GP who referred her to an eating disorders service delivering the FREED programme. Within two weeks, George was meeting with a psychologist for a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) session. George recognises the service not only supported her to manage her eating disorder but also with other challenges she had to face: having surgery, changing jobs, moving homes and acclimatising to the new city.

George said: “My treatment was completely tailored to me and my lifestyle. After my treatment was finished, I left the programme so optimistic and grateful for everything they had given me.

“I am so glad that the FREED programme will be available so that people can benefit from this amazing, life-saving opportunity which I was so lucky and grateful to have.”

The nationwide rollout of the early intervention programme is part of the NHS Long Term Plan to improve access to adult eating disorder services. This will see the NHS expanding the availability of early intervention services, increasing access and reducing waiting times to support improved clinical outcomes for young adults with eating disorders.

Magdalene Sampson, Clinical Psychologist at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Eating disorders can ruin the lives of young people so it’s vital that we provide support as quickly as possible to prevent a devastating impact on our young adults.

“We’re excited to be launching FREED and hope that with this new approach those in HMR who are experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder will be able to access a rapid, evidence-based intervention before the condition disrupts their lives physically, socially, and emotionally.”

The local service is commissioned and funded by NHS HMR Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Dr Imran Ghafoor, HMR CCG Clinical Lead for Mental Health and local GP, said: “NHS HMR CCG is pleased to be offering this vital service to provide support to young adults in HMR experiencing an eating disorder. The pathway has been designed with young people in mind.  

“This important service will bring support and guidance to young people who need it the most and it will allow them to address problems sooner preventing them from becoming lifelong issues.”

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