RECRUITMENT is under way for a team for an adult hub for eating disorders set to be run by the Health Service Executive for the Cork and Kerry area.
A spokeswoman for the HSE has said that funding was provided earlier this year for the establishment of the hub.
A hub for children and adolescents was set up for the region two years ago, with 13 posts recruited to date for the hub.
It is now planned that 13.4 posts will be provided for the adult hub.
The spokeswoman said that having both teams in place will help ensure that “Cork Kerry Community Healthcare has the first completed eating disorder hub in the country”.
She said the State’s three existing community eating disorder teams have noted an increase in referrals received and assessments completed in 2020.
“There have also been more people with eating disorders starting treatment within these teams than previously seen,” she said.
“The increase in demand is in line with international patterns and occurring in the context of the Covid pandemic and related restrictions.”
Paula Crotty from Caring about Recovery from Eating Disorders (Cared) Ireland said the organisation, which offers support from parents and carers of people with eating disorders to other parents and carers, has also noticed an increase in contacts in the past year.
She said that in the past week, three new families had made contact with the group, seeking support and guidance.
Ms Crotty said it is frustrating for parents and carers whose adolescent children manage to get into services for children and adolescents, but whose treatment is then discontinued when they reach the age of 18.
“They end up falling between two stools,” she said.
She believes there should be a dedicated hospital in Ireland for people with eating disorders, with one wing for adults and another wing for children and adolescents, where all staff have training and experience in caring for people with such disorders.
A survey by Cared Ireland earlier this year showed that more than 80% of people caring for loved ones with eating disorders felt that public healthcare clinicians lack the appropriate training and knowledge to treat them.
The survey also found that 40% of respondents have handed over €10,000 and upwards from personal funds, including 13% who paid between €20,000 and €50,000 for treatment for their loved ones.
The main cost incurred was for counselling and psychotherapy, with 85% saying they paid from their own resources, followed by a dietician/nutritionist (63%), psychologist (38%), psychiatrist (29%), and family therapy (25%).
At present, there are just three dedicated beds for patients with eating disorders in Ireland, all in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.
However, those beds are only for people in the Dublin and Kildare region.
She said that representatives of Cared Ireland have met with the minister with responsibility for mental health, Mary Butler, in recent weeks and hope to have a further meeting with her in September to discuss the concerns of parents and carers.
The HSE spokeswoman stressed that most people “do and can” recover from eating disorders without inpatient treatment.
“While a small number of people benefit from more intensive treatment through day programmes or inpatient care, the most effective treatment setting is in the community,” she said.
“Dedicated community-based eating disorder services, where multidisciplinary teams have specialist training, can provide evidence-based care and treatment.”
She said that €5.7m in Government funding has been allocated for eating disorders since 2016.
“Of that, €1.77m has been invested to date in eating disorder specialist posts,” she said.
“The balance of €3.94m for specialist eating disorder posts remains fully available to invest in specialist ED posts in 2021.”
She added that, in 2018, a national model of care for eating disorders had been drawn up by the HSE, in conjunction with the College of Psychiatrists’ of Ireland and Bodywhys. She said it is the blueprint for the HSE to roll out specialist eating disorder services in Ireland to address the “current unmet need for specialist eating disorder service within HSE”.
“Outpatient specialist care is considered to be the most effective treatment setting for most people with eating disorders,” she said.
“The MOC [model of care] has a core focus on developing regional, community-based specialist eating disorder services provided by skilled multidisciplinary teams.”
Both the Cork adult and the child-and-adolescent teams are to be part of a national network of 16 teams in total — half for adults, and half for children and adolescents.
“There are currently three teams in operation, two CAMHS teams serving Cork Kerry Community Healthcare (CHO4) and Community Healthcare Dublin South, Kildare, and West Wicklow (CHO7), and an adult team in Community Healthcare East (CHO6),” said the HSE spokeswoman.
“These multidisciplinary teams provide specialist eating disorder assessment and treatment in the community. Funding has been made available in 2021 to progress the recruitment of three additional ED teams in CHO4 (adult), CHO9 (adult) and CHO2 (CAMHS).”
She urged anyone who is concerned about an eating disorder to discuss it with their GP who, she said, can offer medical assessment, support, and information on treatment options.
“Adults with eating disorders can access treatment from local community mental health teams,” she said.
“There are currently 112 adult community mental health teams nationwide; 90% of new /re-referred adults are offered an appointment within 12 weeks, therefore waiting lists are not collated nationally for adult community MH services.”
At present, there are just three dedicated beds in the public system for inpatient treatment for people with eating disorders, but they are not available to sufferers throughout the country.
The HSE spokeswoman said that adults with an eating disorder diagnosis which requires inpatient care can be referred to any of the HSE’s acute inpatient mental health-approved centres around the country.
She said: “Adults presenting with an eating disorder can also be treated in an acute hospital if their physical health needs require this. There are also three dedicated beds in St Vincent’s hospital ring-fenced for adults with eating disorders in Community Healthcare East (CHO6).” She said that children and adolescents with eating disorders can access treatment through CAMHS.
“There are currently 72 CAMHS teams nationwide. All CAMHS referrals are triaged when received by clinical teams. Every effort is made to prioritise urgent referrals so that young people with high-risk presentations, including eating disorders, are seen as soon as possible and this can often be within 24-48 hours.
“Children and adolescents with an eating disorder diagnosis who require inpatient treatment can be referred to one of the CAMHS inpatient approved centres. Referrals are reviewed individually to determine the likely clinical benefits of admission as well as possible other treatment alternatives.”
She said that the HSE also funds patients in private facilities. However, she said that decisions on such funding are made “based on individual clinical need [as assessed by the local mental health team] and the prioritisation of available funding.”
- Cared Ireland can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The group also operates a WhatsApp group to provide support to parents and carers.