Help for eating disorder victims as treatment centre set to open

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A NEW centre for eating disorders will open in Yorkshire tomorrow which aims to cut numbers of people travelling long distances for treatment.

The Evolve Hull Eating Disorder service, on Beverley Road in the city, already has 70 people on its books, suffering from anorexia, bulimia and other conditions.

Every year around two or three patients with the most serious cases of anorexia and bulimia have been sent to Leeds, Sheffield, York and London for treatment.

Costing over £500 a day, with stays lasting between three and six months, and sometimes longer, the final bill can be vast.

The new service is intended to reduce the need for long-term out-of-city care, bring patients back earlier and keep sufferers closer to their families, who often struggle having to give up work and cover the cost of travelling to visit their loved ones.

Service manager Nicky Guilfoyle said: “A lot of research that has come out in the last five to 10 years has been supportive of day services as opposed to inpatient care.

“Whilst inpatient care has its place, day services allow you to offer a range of different interventions, so people don’t end up as inpatients, that’s the hope.

“Historically people might have had an hour a week with a clinician to explore their issues – the other alternative would be 24/7 as an inpatient. If people are a long way from their family and friends it can be hard for them to feel supported and instead they can become isolated. We are offering something in the middle.”

A report two years ago by the Local Involvement Network (LINk) representing patients in the area contained criticisms from sufferers about “appalling” waiting lists and services locally being “worse than useless”.

The centre will be opened by actor Gemma Oaten, who plays Rachel Breckle in the TV soap Emmerdale. She had an eating disorder from the age of 10. Her mother Marg Oaten set up the support group as a consequence called Seed Eating Disorders Support Services, which now has a resource room in the building.

Mrs Oaten said: “This is what we have been aiming for since 2001 – to actually have a service for people with eating disorders. It was clear from the LINk report that services weren’t adequate.

“The money has now been invested and we are proud as a voluntary organisation to be part of that.”

She said numbers of people with eating disorders had shown an “alarming” rise, adding: “I think it’s the pressure of life, everything is difficult for people, money, jobs, we are in a society where people struggle.

“Very often an eating disorder may be a way of dealing with a difficult situation. The idea is to minimise the number of people who have to go out of the area. It is not just about saving in terms of cost – it is difficult for the families as it is for the patient.

“It is an isolating illness – people withdraw from society and friends and being in Leeds or London doesn’t help.”

Her daughter added: “I feel something extremely positive has come out of a very negative and difficult situation and it is a testament to my parents, Marg and Dennis, that they have managed to do this.

“The quicker that help can be given to people in Hull the better, and it means they don’t have to be separated from their family.”

The specially-converted house is staffed by 14 people, including mental health nurses, dieticians and occupational therapists.

The aim is to create a “relaxed and welcoming” environment, where people can cook healthy meals and access individual and group activities.

Bulimia sufferer Charlotte, who has been coming to Evolve, said she wished she had got help earlier: “I really hope there are other people out there who’ll find the courage to admit they’ve got a problem, go to their GP and get the help they need from Evolve. The service has made a massive difference to my life.”