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Funding Failure

Extra funding promised for eating disorder services last year was spent elsewhere

Since 2018, just over 3% of money allocated to improve supports and treatment was actually spent on this by HSE.

THE ENTIRE AMOUNT of last year’s development funding for eating disorder services was used to cover other areas of mental health provision, according to the HSE.  

In a statement to Noteworthy, a HSE spokesperson said that “nationally planned developments for eating disorder services in 2020 had to be temporarily paused”. They added:

“In 2020 this development funding was used to cover unfunded costs in mental health services including some costs associated with service provision for those with eating disorders.”

The HSE said that no additional development funding was provided for eating disorders last year but “the balance of €3.94 million of previous funding remained in place”.

  • Read more here on how you can support a major Noteworthy project on the impact that lack of services, particularly in regions without specialist teams, is having on people with eating disorders.

Just over 3% of funding spent in three years

This funding was originally allocated to the development of new eating disorder services, yet for the last three years all or almost all of the money was diverted to other services.

In 2018, €1.5m was allocated for the development of eating disorder services across Ireland. However, according to the HSE, just €137,000 was spent.

In 2019, a further €1.6m was allocated to the development of eating disorder services. Yet a HSE parliamentary question from November 2019 stated that it was being held by the Department of Health and would not become available until January 2020. It continued:

Therefore there have been no posts progressed in relation [to] 2019 funds.

That equates to €137,000 (3.4%) of just over €4 million in development funding allocated to eating disorders being spent since 2018. This funding is part of the implementation of the national clinical programme for eating disorders, launched in January 2018.

In an opinion piece for Noteworthy last year, Fiona Coyle, chief executive of the Mental Health Reform called for the Government to stop diverting funding allocated to eating disorder to other areas. 

Coyle explained that “year after year, mental health funding announced on Budget Day has not taken into account some basic principles that are taken for granted in other areas of the health service” that “the cost of maintaining existing services in mental health rises each year”.

This is due to staff pay scales and other factors, according to Coyle. This shortfall of money usually comes from development funding which is “supposed to be used to develop new mental health services”. 

Lack of progress

In relation to the use of 2020 funding on other services, the HSE said that “this was done in consultation with the Department of Health”. The spokesperson continued:

“It is important to note that this funding has not been diverted. It remains fully available for recruitment of eating disorder posts in 2021.” 

Jacinta Hastings, chief executive of Bodywhys, the eating disorders association of Ireland, told Noteworthy:

We need to focus on the positive that the funding is fully available in 2021 and need to see progress during the year on this.

A HSE mental health service report from last July found that no eating disorder specialist team “was serving its full population” at the end of that year.

A key element of the national programme is to treat people with eating disorders early before they become sick enough for admission to hospital. To do this, hubs and mini-hubs of specialist teams were to be set up across the country within five years.

Three years into the programme, only three of the 16 promised hubs are operational – one adult hub in Dublin as well as hubs in both Dublin and Cork for children and adolescents. 

Hastings is calling for “year-on-year protected funding to see all 16 teams in place within the quickest time frame possible”.

If you need to speak to someone, contact:


Do you want to know if people with eating disorders are being failed by the public health system?

The Noteworthy team want to do an in-depth investigation into the progress of the national clinical programme for eating disorders and what is causing delays in its implementation.

Here’s how to help support this proposed project>

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