Proud to support Hope Virgo
Proud to support Hope Virgo's campaigning for better support for people with eating disorders

Recently I spoke to a constituent during one of my constituency surgeries and listened to her experience with eating disorders.   I have been a long-standing supporter of Hope Virgo’s #DumpTheScales campaign for better, accessible support for everyone with an eating disorder rather than the current system which pushes sufferers towards crisis point before they get the help they deserve.  Hope also took part in my virtual International Women’s Day event.

Eating disorders have a very high mortality rate, with anorexia having the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The Government’s lack of understanding of this mental illness and failure of action and treatment costs lives.

For example, their recent move to display calories on menus, despite the advice of eating disorder charities.  1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder, and many millions more have experienced these illnesses in their lifetime. I believe that making calories on menus mandatory will stigmatise people and for those with eating disorders, it can contribute to harmful eating thoughts or behaviours. We know that counting calories can sometimes cause more harm than good. According to Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, there is also very limited evidence that such legislation will lead to changed eating habits among the general population.

As the Shadow Minister for Mental Health, my colleague Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP has been leading on this issue for Labour.   Not only is she an A&E doctor, she is a passionate campaigner on tackling eating disorders. Last month, she wrote a piece where she described dealing with patients with eating disorder first-hand:

“As a doctor, I am seeing an increasing number of children coming to A&E having self-harmed or living with eating disorders. Parents bring their children to the hospital, wondering why they are repeatedly fainting or are constantly exhausted. Often the illness is hidden from the patient’s closest relatives.”

This is truly harrowing and given that there has been a 41% increase in hospital admissions for children with eating disorders in one year alone (compared to April to October 21 figures), the Government must act.

My constituent described the lack of early-treatment for her anorexia and the impact of long-waiting times to see NHS specialists. This is unacceptable. As we come out of the pandemic, I am terrified that vulnerable constituents will be subject to the postcode lottery for treatment and the bear the consequences of the Government’s sluggish approach to mental health over the last 12 years.

Recently I submitted the following Written Parliamentary Questions to clarify the Government’s approach to tackling this serious issue:

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on improving community services specialising in eating disorders in children. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of trends in the level of hospital admissions of children with eating disorders. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, pursuant to the Answer of 22 October 2021 to Question 57165, what funding has been made available for local areas to commission services for children presenting with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) following the 2019/20 pilot programme. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what estimate his Department has made of the financial costs incurred by the NHS as a result of (a) increased severity of illness, (b) long-term development of physical health implications and (c) A&E admissions in the event that there have been delays in providing treatment to people with eating disorders. Response here

The next Labour government will guarantee mental health treatment within one month for all who need it. We will prioritise recruiting new NHS staff and the creation of open access hubs in every community. Eating disorders should be taken seriously and patients and their families have the right to support and care throughout the process.




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