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Norman Lamb: 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders

December 5, 2014 1:46 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Charlotte Robinson was an incredibly bright, energetic, and well-liked young woman. She was working towards her A-levels, and hoping to attend Cambridge University. But days before her results arrived, Charlotte died. An eating disorder had left her dangerously weak, and she lost her fight with a sudden bout of pneumonia. When her A-level results arrived, she had achieved four As.

The inquest heard it had taken five weeks between Charlotte seeing her GP and an assessment being carried out by a mental health nurse, and it then took another month for any help to start. If help had been given sooner, Charlotte might have been celebrating her 26th today.

In over a decade as a Member of Parliament, Charlotte's story is one of the most desperately cruel I have seen. As constituency MP I have campaigned with her parents to improve eating disorder services locally. But the Robinson family's experience is sadly all too common. Across the country, eating disorder services too often are simply not good enough.

Eating disorders are a growing challenge in Britain, with NICE estimating that 1.6 million people in the UK are affected. Just months ago, research revealed that an increasing number of young people are being admitted to hospital for treatment of eating disorders, with those between 14 and 25 most likely to be affected. And anorexia is the biggest killer of any psychiatric disorder: 15% of patients die before the age of 40.

Earlier this week, Nick Clegg announced that he had secured £150m of investment to transform eating disorder services for children and young people across the country. The money will help deliver quick access to treatment, and end the cliff edge transition for young people when they turn 18. And we will work towards establishing national waiting time and access standards by 2016.

In government I have been determined to tackle the poor standards of mental health services for children and young people that exist in many parts of the country. That's why I launched a Taskforce of both experts and service users themselves, to look at how we can join up services and make it easier for young people to access the support they need.

Better care for eating disorders is a top priority and this investment will help drive up standards so that every young person gets a fair opportunity in life. I will be working closely with the Taskforce in coming months to ensure we make as much progress as possible in young people's mental health services. And above all, I will be driving forwards the changes announced by Nick this week so that tragedies like Charlotte's become a thing of the past.