Eating disorders in young people sees staggering 496% increase

Wigan has seen a dramatic rise of young people with eating disorders following the Covid pandemic.

The mental health services have seen a rise in demand for both adults and children, but the demand for support with eating disorders is one of the standout figures.

According to their data, Wigan and Bolton Children and Young People’s Community Eating Disorder Service has experienced a significant increase in referrals, with increases of 496 per cent from 2019/20 to 2021/22 and by 101 per cent from 2020/21 to 2021/ 22.

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The committee was presented a report on the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) takeover of Wigan’s mental health services 12 months on.

“We need to acknowledge that the 12 months following the transfer have been very challenging with the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the demand for mental health services and the ability of the trust to deliver services,” the report said.

“Our mental health services have experienced rising demand in both adults and young people’s services, and in the complexity of individuals’ needs.”

Sharon Barber, director of Community Services (Wigan Council) and director of commissioning for Mental Health and Urgent Care Services, who presented the report, explained that as part of the transfer process, a Service Delivery Plan was developed which set out the following priorities post transfer:

  • Delivery of a safe landing of Wigan services into GMMH.
  • integrating teams
  • corporate integration
  • Responding to Crisis
  • Urgent Care System Review
  • Bed use and management
  • The development of a Community Model
  • Implementing an agreed Primary Care Network mental health model
  • Children and Young People’s mental health
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Members of the Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee raised their concerns for the youth of the borough who they believe are suffering post-pandemic.

Lynne Hamnett, co-opted member of the comminute of the Wigan charity Embrace, described how she had worked with three teenagers who have eating disorders who are now worse off because of a lack of staff and specialists. She praised the report and the progress but asked what can be done for the young people suffering now.

Sharon Barber assured Ms Hamnett that they were addressing the problems with recognizing patient needs, the lack of beds in mental health and explained they are securing funding for more mental health support.

Councillor Keith Cunliffe, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care, explained that the council did not have enough funding/staff to deal with the demand before the 496 per cent increase – so are under tremendous pressure.

I have suggested they need to find alternative ways to reduce the demand at source and identify young people who are struggling before they need to be referred to mental health services.

“This is not just a Wigan problem but a national problem,” Coun Cunliffe said.

“There is not enough specialist staff to deal with the amount of cases at the moment.

“The cavalry [the Government] are not going to be coming with millions in funding.

“Young people have been through a lot of trauma throughout Covid and it has created anxiety.

“We have to find different ways of dealing with this because there is no way staff can deal with this amount of cases.”
I have suggested more training for teachers and parents to help identify early warning signs as one way of reducing the demand.

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“We are already seeing the benefits of the transfer of Wigan’s mental health services to GMMH, and our priority now is to accelerate progress with our transformation plans to improve the mental health outcomes of residents of the borough,” the report said.

“The focus over the next few months is the design of the Living Well model as part of the community mental health transformation programme.

“This is an exciting time for our mental health services, with more investment available to develop new and integrated models of primary and community mental health care, and we’re looking forward to working with all our system partners to develop the best model for Wigan .”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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