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HSE says Brexit implications 'unclear' for Irish patients seeking eating disorder treatment in the UK

There are just three specialist eating disorder beds at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin for the acute treatment of adults.

Image: Shutterstock/mathom

THE IMPLICATIONS BREXIT might have for those travelling abroad for eating disorder treatment is “unclear”, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

One Fianna Fáil TD said he is particularly concerned about reports that the number of children with eating disorders being sent to the UK for treatment is increasing.

“This option, while unacceptable, may not even be available post-Brexit, as the legal mechanism for doing so is by way of an EU regulation,” James Browne told

In a reply to his parliamentary question on the matter, the HSE said given that the numbers of persons under 18 with eating disorders who received treatment in the UK is so low it could not disclose the exact figures, as it could identify patients.

“The implications of Brexit on the Treatment Abroad [Scheme] are unclear at present but the HSE and the Department of Health are aware of the issue and will plan accordingly,” said the health service.

The Treatment Abroad Scheme (TAS) allows patients get treatment in another EU member state.

Sending patients to the UK

High Court Judge Peter Kelly recently raised his concerns on this issue, stating that the numbers being referred to the UK for eating disorder cases are such that he thought it would be “a lot cheaper” to provide the necessary facilities in Ireland, rather than sending people to the UK.

He also said the HSE must consider that sending people abroad for treatment could be a casualty of Brexit, stating that the health service was not doing enough to provide services in Ireland.

Currently children with an eating disorder requiring acute treatment will have their in-patient care provided through the four national Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) acute treatment units in Dublin (where there are two), Cork and Galway.

As part of the new Children’s Hospital there is a plan for eight eating disorder beds and the community element of this service is currently being developed.

There are just three specialist eating disorder beds at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin for the acute treatment of adults.

The Department of Health estimates that somewhere in the region of 200,000 people in Ireland may be affected by an eating disorder, with an estimated 400 new cases among men and women each year.

Fianna Fáil Senator Catherine Ardagh said those “without private health insurance can expect a lengthy wait for assessment, let alone treatment under the public health system. For most, this leaves them suffering when we are all aware that early intervention guarantees the best chance of recovery”.

She said the government have an obligation to improve the current standard of care available to those suffering with an eating disorder in Ireland.

“We can already predict that there will be increased demand for such services in the years ahead. We must invest in our services now to ensure they can deliver the clinical outcomes that these patients deserve,” she concluded.

In January, the HSE’s Eating Disorders Services published its Model of Care for Ireland report.

The HSE has said that “when implemented, there will be a national network of specialist eating disorder community team based services and access to an enhanced level of special treatment beds”.

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