One in five patients with life-threatening eating disorders are forced to pay for private care as part of their treatment, with families quitting their jobs and living on credit cards to support loved ones, a report reveals.
The huge financial impact of conditions like anorexia and bulimia is laid bare in a study showing that in England alone the cost of eating disorders was Â£ 8bn in 2020, rising to 9 , Â£ 4 billion across the UK. This includes a loss of productivity of Â£ 4.8bn because people cannot work, healthcare costs of Â£ 1.7bn and healthcare costs of Â£ 1.1bn.
The pandemic’s devastating toll means eating disorder treatment services are treating more patients than ever, with record numbers of children and young people now seeking access to NHS mental health services.
Almost a quarter of patients who provided evidence said they were forced to pay privately for part of their treatment due to delays in NHS support or a lack of continued support. A 24-year-old patient said he was unable to work for three years after being hospitalized and now pays Â£ 150 a month for nutritional support.
One parent said his family ended up “living on credit cards” to help their child. âThe amount of food, then the wasted food, the travel, the money spent trying to make up for lost opportunities. Eight months of work stoppage meant very reduced pay,â they said.
Kathryn Simoni, whose 14-year-old daughter was hospitalized with anorexia, said her family has been devastated by the disease. âFinancially, I don’t work anymore because I have to be with my daughter,â she said, adding that her daughter was still not back in school full time. âWe pay privately for private counseling and private psychotherapy because it is not available on the NHS. He tore my family apart. He just comes knocking on your door uninvited and tears your world apart, and the girl you knew is gone.
Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eating Disorders, said there was something “very wrong” about the way eating disorders were being treated in the UK. United.
The study, conducted by psychiatrist Agnes Ayton, psychiatric geneticist Professor Gerome Breen and activist Hope Virgo, included evidence from people with eating disorders and caregivers, as well as an EY analysis of costs of illness.
Breen said: “This report highlights the massive impact of eating disorders on all age groups. We have been able to do research that points to a treatable biology that could form the basis for new therapies, but more research funding is needed to develop them. “
Virgo said the costs were “unfortunately” not surprising and the report was a stark reminder that people were “left in limbo with no support at all.”
The report says that due to an increase in demand for services, “an overwhelmed and broken system” had “fallen to its knees” and needed urgent change. He calls for earmarked funding and better training for all doctors and frontline staff to manage eating disorder emergencies.