West Lancashire Rosie Cooper MP called for early intervention for eating disorders while supporting the publication of the UK eating disorder charity Beat’s new research ‘Delaying for years, denied for months’ on the impact of delayed treatment for eating disorders sufferers and their families.

The research was launched in Parliament, and it focused on where the delays in finding treatment lie.

Beat’s analysis of 1,478 survey respondents found that on average, it takes sufferers over 18 months to realise they have an eating disorder and over a year following this before they seek help. In Lancashire, the average is 67 weeks for a sufferer to first begin realising that they had an eating disorder to the referral to treatment being made.

It was further reported in Lancashire that there was an 11 week wait from referral to assessment, and a further 13 week wait between assessment and first treatment. 

The research also found an average wait of six months between sufferers first visiting a GP and receiving treatment.

Successfully treating anorexia becomes harder after three years so this wait means that many people are seeking help when their illness is still highly treatable, but not receiving it until later, when the likely outcome is more negative.

Rosie Cooper MP said:
“I am delighted to support Beat in calling for early intervention for eating disorders. It is vital that we raise awareness of eating disorders and ensure that adequate treatment is available for everyone who needs it.

“I am pleased to support Beat’s work highlighting the importance of spotting the first signs of eating disorders to ensure people access the help they need very early on.”


Beat Chief Executive, Andrew Radford said:
“I am delighted that Rosie Cooper MP has backed our new research. We hope this has highlighted to MPs and Government the importance of early intervention and the key part that plays in improving a person’s chances of recovery.

“Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and when people are treated within three years of falling ill, they are much more likely to have a quick and sustained recovery. The news that on average there is a delay of three-and-a-half years after symptoms emerging is very concerning.”

Beat also found that eating disorders have a significant impact on the whole family, who on average spend over £32,000 on travel to clinics, special food, lost time at work and other expenses. 44% of mothers and 31% of fathers described themselves as ‘extremely badly’ affected by the wait for their son or daughter to access treatment.

Radford continued:
“When we look at the impact this has on those affected by eating disorders, it is devastating. We’ve spoken to carers who have had to give up work, a sister who at 12 years-old considered herself a ‘carer’ to her sister and her struggling parents and a mother who said the illness was destroying their family.”

The charity is calling on the Government to take action to do more to encourage people to seek help as soon as possible. Beat is also calling for more funds to be made available nationwide so that everyone can get the treatment they need once they have been referred to mental health services.


Research methodology: We carried out an online survey in early 2017, which was accessed by 3,158 individuals. We have analysed the data from the 1,478 respondents who were from England and referred to treatment between 2007 and 2017. We carried out a second online survey in September 2017 to carers of those with an eating disorder which was accessed by 1,645 people. We also carried out in-depth interviews with 20 individuals. Full details of the research methodology is available on request. 

Visit www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk  for information about eating disorders, message boards and online support groups.

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About Beat

Beat is the UK’s eating disorder charity. We began life in 1989 as the first national charity for people with eating disorders because of a merger of two local charities. Called the Eating Disorders Association, we have grown and developed over time to become Beat.

We are a champion, guide and friend to anyone affected by eating disorders, giving individuals experiencing an eating disorder and their loved ones a place where they feel listened to, supported and empowered.

About eating disorders

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Eating disorders are complex and there is no one single cause or reason why someone develops an eating disorder. A whole range of different factors combine, such as genetic, psychological, environmental, social and biological influences.

We estimate 1.25 million people in the UK of all ages, genders, and backgrounds have an eating disorder. Eating disorders can be fatal, and anorexia has a higher mortality rate than any other mental illness.

Although serious, eating disorders are treatable conditions and full recovery is possible. The sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full recovery.

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