We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Alamy Stock Photo
Mental Health

Progress made on eating disorder services 'somewhat slow', politicians to be told

Presentations of eating disorders in the health service have significantly increased over the last several years.

PROGRESS BEING MADE on eating disorder services in Ireland is moving at a ‘somewhat slow’ pace, TDs and senators will hear this morning.

The Oireachtas subcommittee on mental health is meeting at 11am to discuss eating disorders in Ireland and hear from representatives of Bodywhys, a national voluntary organisation supporting people affected by eating disorders.

Bodywhys CEO Jacinta Hastings will address the meeting along with the organisation’s Training and Development Manager Harriet Parsons and Support Services Manager Kathy Downes.

Hastings will tell the subcommittee that there has been some progress on eating disorder services under the Implementation Plan 2022-2024, but that it is “somewhat slow’.

“The increase in the presentation of eating disorders as a consequence of the pandemic has now made this a critical issue for patients requiring an urgent response,” she will say.

The Department of Health estimates that up to 180,000 people are affected by eating disorders in Ireland every year.

Young people are especially affected, with an average onset age of 15.

Hastings will tell the subcommittee that research in Ireland indicates body image is a widespread issue for young people, that body image and related concerns are on the rise, and rates of eating disorders in children are also increasing.

“It is important that teachers in schools are aware that such issues can occur in school children and that they are equipped to deal with any such issues which may arise.”

People with eating disorders and their families experience differences in areas with and without eating disorder teams.

“Where eating disorder teams are in place there is a positive outcome for the patient. Areas with no teams in place contribute to an inequity of access further compromising the health of those who require treatment,” Hastings will say.

Additionally, the increase in eating disorders has lengthened waiting times.

“All of this highlights the need for funding for full team recruitment as per the Model of Care and the need for the Model of Care to be reviewed and updated to take account of increased demand.

“Funding should be on a bi-annual (rather than annual) basis to allow for advance planning of services and supports.

“The development of a National Eating Disorder Registry would provide factual data allowing for future-proofing of services

“We urge you to ensure that eating disorders remains a priority within your discussions on mental health.”

Last year, research in the Irish Medical Journal reported a 66% increase in hospital admissions for eating disorders in 2020 compared to the previous year.

The authors said that multiple factors likely played a role, including distress, anxiety related to the pandemic, pre-existing morbidity, the interplay of social and economic factors, the impact of restrictions, and losses of protective factors.

And a HSE report published in February described 2021 as a “busy and clinically demanding” year in adult eating disorder services.

St Vincent’s University Hospital, which is one of only three locations in the country with dedicated inpatient beds for adults, saw referral numbers “surge” by over 120%.

A HSE statement said the rise was “precipitated by the impact of Covid-19, and reflecting the general increase internationally”. 

Help is available from:

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel