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17 November 2020

Hundreds of young people with eating disorders to benefit from early intervention FREED service

Young people with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are to get rapid access to specialist NHS treatment across England.

Sun shining on a seedling growing in a person's hands

The NHS has announced that it will scale up the First Episode Rapid Early Intervention for Eating Disorders (FREED) service to support young people in the early stages of eating disorders.

FREED was developed and trialled at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLAM), and focuses on optimal delivery of rapid, personally tailored and well-integrated care for young people with a first episode of an eating disorder. The introduction of FREED has been shown to significantly improve treatment uptake, clinical outcomes and service satisfaction and reduces waiting times and the need for in-patient care.

The new NHS service to be rolled out in 18 sites across the country builds on a successful scheme shown to help 16-25 year olds in London, with one patient describing it as ‘the gold standard’ of care.

With eating disorders causing serious physical and mental health problems which can last decades, the expanded service will target care to those who have been living with a condition for fewer than three years, to tackle problems before they escalate.

Teens or young adults coming forward who would benefit from treatment can be contacted within 48 hours and with treatment beginning as soon as two weeks later.

Eating disorders are disabling and potentially deadly, and early treatment is essential. We are absolutely thrilled with this much needed investment and we hope that rolling out this NHS new service to 18 specialist eating disorder teams in England, will create the momentum needed to make early intervention a reality for all young people with eating disorders.

Ulrike Schmidt, Professor of Eating Disorders at the IoPPN, King’s College London and Consultant Psychiatrist at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

The investment in the early intervention service is part of the NHS Long Term Plan commitment to provide an additional £1 billion a year by 2023/24 to expand and improve community mental health care so adults, including those with an eating disorder, can get earlier access to care, as close to home as possible.

Young people who are struggling with an eating disorder stand to benefit significantly with the roll out of this new NHS service which will provide access to early intervention, treatment and support.

Professor Tim Kendall, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health

“These services have already proven to be effective and the expansion in care we have announced today will support our ambition to meet the rising demand for support to tackle young people’s ill health.

“And although we are in the throes of a pandemic, the NHS continues to offer face-to-face appointments and inpatient care for patients with eating disorders when needed, while providing the option of phone and video consultations and online support where appropriate,” he continued.

Eating disorders can have a devastating impact on individuals and their families – and can very sadly be fatal. I am committed to ensuring young people have access to the services and treatment they need which can ultimately save lives.

Nadine Dorries, Minister for Health

“Early intervention is vital, so it’s great to see this programme – which will get young people access to help when they need it – being rolled out in trusts across the country,” she said.

Visit the FREED website to find out more.

Read about this story on the NHS England website.

Contact: For interviews or any further media information please contact Louise Pratt, Head of Communications, IoPPN: / +44 7850 919020

In this story

Ulrike Schmidt profile

Professor of Eating Disorders