Promoting the early detection and treatment of eating disorders for children and young people

In Greater Manchester we want to promote the early detection and treatment of eating disorders, and GPs play a crucial role in this.

Our key messages for our primary care colleagues are:

Referrals are timely.

All referrals to community eating disorder services will be screened within 24 hours of receipt, except on weekends or Bank Holidays. All accepted referrals will be screened for urgency and will be offered either an emergency appointment within 24 hours, an urgent appointment within one-week, or a routine appointment within 28 days.

One of the commitments across all services is to reduce the number of barriers to accessing timely interventions. We will accept referrals from anywhere, so it may be most appropriate for you as a GP to refer, but, similarly, we will accept referrals from patients themselves, family members, social workers, teachers and school nurses. With consent from the family, contact us at the earliest opportunity. Dr Meenaka Williams, CAMHS Consultant Psychiatrist, MFT Community Eating Disorder Service

Services are personalised

 I didn’t feel as though I was in control of my situation, really. It felt like lots of decisions were being made about me or for me. And then I met David and all that changed, because we made a pact that he would trust me but that I would have to trust him as well, and that we would do this together and we’d work together …. And there was more of an equal footing than a doctor-patient kind of relationship. That saved my life, really. It meant I could move at my pace.  Lois. David was Lois’ Consultant Psychiatrist at the time.

If you have a concern about a patient, please don’t hesitate to contact your local eating disorder service

We sit separately to core CAMHS services, so if you’re worried about a young person with an eating disorder refer to the eating disorder service specifically as opposed to a core CAMHS service in your local area. Even if you’re not sure that someone definitely has an eating disorder, even if you don’t have every little bit of information that you might want, don’t let that be a barrier to having a conversation with us at the very least. Dr Meenaka Williams, CAMHS Consultant Psychiatrist, MFT Community Eating Disorder Service

In Greater Manchester we have three community eating disorder services who provide care and support to children and young people with an eating disorder up to the age of 18. They also offer training, advice and support to families, carers, and those who work with, or support, a child or young person. Community eating disorder services aim to promote the early detection and treatment of eating disorders through a combination of one-to-one support and family-based interventions, along with support from a specialist dietitian.

Working with the Greater Manchester Community Eating Disorder Network we’ve produced a range of resources:

  • A leaflet for parents and carers or people worried that someone they know is showing any signs of an eating disorder to signpost them to support: Children and young people with suspected eating disorders 28 January 2022.
  • A dedicated webpage for primary care outlining the clinical pathway and providing full details of eating disorder services in Greater Manchester. Short 
  • A film featuring Lois (below) who suffered from an eating disorder for several years. She is now fully recovered following treatment by the Manchester University Foundation Trust Community Eating Disorder Service. Lois is currently studying medicine in Edinburgh.
  • The film above featuring Dr Meenaka Williams, CAMHS Consultant Psychiatrist, who talks about how the service is organised, how to make referrals, waiting times, supporting diagnosis using MEED guidance, and when to consider a hospital admission.

Eating disorders are very complex psychiatric disorders. There’s significant evidence to suggest that early access to comprehensive treatment improves the prognosis of these young people, reduces need for inpatient treatment and decreases long term morbidity and mortality.

Children and young people make up a third of the Greater Manchester population and it is forecasted that the 0 -15-year-old cohort will be one of the fastest growing groups over the next 5 years. The Office for National Statistics population estimates projects by 2025 there will be over 732,000 0-19 years’ olds in Greater Manchester.

The availability of dedicated, community eating disorder services has been shown to improve outcomes and cost effectiveness. If a child or young person starts their treatment in a general child and adolescent mental health services, they’re more likely to be admitted to an inpatient service than those treated in community eating disorder settings within the following year.