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Eating disorders in children rise by 11%

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The number of children admitted to hospital due to eating disorders has risen by 11% in the past year, according to the NHS.

Hospitals treated 882 under-18s out of a total of 2,579 admissions in the year to June. Under 10s constituted 31 admissions and 367 were aged between 10 and 14.

One in three people admitted to hospital in England because of an eating disorder is a child. Eating disorders most often involve girls and around three-quarters of the cases were related to anorexia. Other conditions include bulimia and overeating.

The South West had the highest rate of hospital stays for its population for all types of eating disorders, while rates of anorexia were highest in the North East. On average, the length of stay was 38 days.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, said: “The report confirms that hospital stays due to eating disorders affect mainly young women and they are mostly treated for anorexia.

“A large number of hospital stays are among 14 to 16 year olds but children who are even younger are also affected.”

A spokeswoman for the charity Beat said: “People who are hospitalised are very ill indeed.

“Community care plays a vital role in ensuring that the number of hospital stays are kept to the minimum, demonstrated in areas where treatment concentrates on helping those affected before they reach a critical stage where they have to be admitted.

“The age range and gender mix remain fairly constant. However, these figures represent a small number of the 1.6 million people across the UK who are affected by these illnesses.”

Care services minister Paul Burstow said: “The coalition government is committed to improving mental health for the whole population. That is why we will shortly publish a new mental health strategy which will consider all aspects of mental health across all ages, including children.

“Early intervention is essential for those with eating disorders. We have been clear that GPs are expected to use Nice guidance on choosing the most appropriate treatments, from physical and psychological treatments to medicines.

“The local NHS must also ensure that patients can access joined-up care, including emergency and intensive inpatient treatment for the most serious cases.”

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Readers' comments (1)

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