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Rise in eating disorder hospital admissions

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The number of people requiring hospital treatment for eating disorders has risen, along with the number of children needing hospital admission for the disorders, according to data.

Provisional figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that there was a 16% rise in the number of people admitted to hospital for eating disorders last year, with children and teenagers accounting for more than half of the total.

Hospitals recorded 2,290 eating disorder admissions in the year leading up to June 2012 - a 16% rise on the previous 12-month period.

Young people aged 10 to 19 accounted for 55% (1,250) of those admissions, up from 49% (960) the previous year, in what HSCIC said was a “relatively small but nevertheless significant rise”.

The largest number of admissions was for 15-year-old girls, who made up 10% (220) of the total. They also accounted for the most admissions in the previous 12 months, when they made up 9% (190) of the total.

But HSCIC said some patients may be counted more than once within the figures because they had been admitted more than once in the same reporting period.

HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan said: “It might be assumed that a person suffering with an eating disorder is cared for in the community through primary services rather than in hospital; with activity in secondary care only part of a bigger picture.

“However our figures do suggest that hospitals in England are admitting a greater number of eating disorder cases than in previous years.

“The data points to a relatively small but nevertheless significant rise in child admissions for the treatment of an eating disorder. This information will be of interest and concern to health professionals and the public alike.”

Today’s report shows that provisionally, in the 12 months to June 2012, eating disorder admissions increased on the previous 12-month period by a larger percentage than admissions overall (16%, compared with a 1% rise overall from 14.9 million to 15.1 million).

It also found that women accounted for 91% (2,080) of all eating disorder admissions, compared with 88% (1,740) in the previous 12 months.

Anorexia accounted for 74% (1,700) of all eating disorder admissions, while bulimia accounted for 7% (150). The remaining 19% (440) was for “other eating disorders” such as overeating or vomiting, associated with other psychological disturbances.

According to the figures for eating disorder admissions, 26% (500) were admitted and discharged on the same day, while 5% (90) spent at least six months as an inpatient.

Eating disorder admissions had longer hospital stays on average compared with admissions overall, but 92% (2,100) of eating disorder admissions involved no procedure during the patient’s stay, compared with 36% of overall admissions.

The HSCIC said regionally, the highest number of eating disorder admissions by population size occurred in the North East where there were 5.8 per 100,000 (150 admissions).

By total admissions, the highest number was in London at 440 (5.6 per 100,000).

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