In My View: Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, MP for Tooting

The last two years have been a difficult time. We have had to grapple with loss, grief and a fundamental change to daily life as we knew it.

So many people have told me of the challenges they experienced with their own mental health – many for the first time in their lives.

It is clear, that to some extent, the stigma around mental illness has been broken down, but there is still a long way to go.

For complex mental illnesses, such as eating disorders, there is still a deep misunderstanding of the illnesses themselves and how people’s lives are truly affected.

Eating disorders have incredibly high mortality rates, with anorexia having the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

Lack of action and treatment costs lives.

Approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder, and admissions are rising across the country.

But provision does not match need. It is vital that the Government gets a grip on the waiting list crisis ruining the lives of those struggling with the illness, as well as their families.

Despite being a doctor for many years, I am now seeing more children coming to A&E living with eating disorders.

Parents bring their children to the hospital, wondering why they are fainting repeatedly and are constantly exhausted – often, the illness is hidden from the patient’s closest relatives.

Adults with eating disorders also face a postcode lottery in trying to access specialist treatment. In some areas, people with anorexia can only receive treatment based on whether their BMI is ‘low enough’.

Access to the right treatment and support is life-changing – early intervention provides the best chance for recovery.

Despite this, there is a three and-a-half-year gap between recognised onset of illness and start of treatment due to delays in identification, referral, and lengthy waiting times.

The next Labour Government will guarantee mental health treatment within a month for all who need it and will recruit 8,500 new staff so that one million additional people can access treatment every year by the end of the first term in office.

Since 2014/15, hospital admissions for eating disorders have increased by 60 per cent.

For children, there has been a 41 per cent rise in hospital admissions for eating disorders in one year alone, when comparing April to October 2021 figures, with that of the same period the previous year.

Early intervention is key if we want to give every child the opportunity of a healthy start.

For children’s physical health, we already have a preventative approach in place – regular check-ups for our children’s hearing, eyesight and growth are the norm. We should do the same for their mental health.

Eating disorders must be taken seriously. Only Labour has a plan that focuses on the security, prosperity and respect that our country deserves.




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