RQIA publishes review of Eating Disorder Services in Northern Ireland

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) has published the findings of its Review of Eating Disorder Services in Northern Ireland.

During the review, RQIA held a series of focus groups with adults and young people with an eating disorder and with their families. The review team also met with health and social care staff responsible for commissioning and providing services, and with representatives from voluntary organisations.

While anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of age or gender, the most commonly affected group are young women between the ages of 15 and 25. It can be difficult to identify the early stages of an eating disorder, and these disorders are often associated with psychiatric and physical complications.

Early intervention and the development of clear treatment pathways is crucial for anyone with an eating disorder. The experiences of service users’ initial contact with GPs, and their subsequent referral into other essential services were mixed. Parents and carers told us that advice was not consistently available to help them cope with living with someone with an eating disorder.

In recent years there has been an increase in the numbers of patients referred to hospitals to Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. RQIA recommends that there should be a feasibility study to determine if a specialist eating disorder unit should be developed in Northern Ireland, and welcomes the Health Minister’s statement in October 2015 on this matter. Engagement with patients who have been subject to these referrals is also critical in the future development of eating disorder services.

This review makes 11 key recommendations and 15 supporting recommendations, which, if implemented, would improve services for all those in Northern Ireland with an eating disorder.