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Yesterday, the HSE launched a new model of care for the treatment of eating disorders in Ireland, a group of recognised mental health disorders that include Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.

These disorders are caused by a combination of genetic and psychosocial factors and affect up to 5 per cent of the population, a number that has been growing internationally, particularly among adolescents and males. Anorexia Nervosa in particular has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric conditions but all eating disorders are associated with high levels of both mental and physical complications such as heart and endocrine problems.

The model of care will prove a blueprint for how services for patients with eating disorders will be developed and continuously improved nationally, the aim being that this will improve quality, safety, and access to services for all ages in addition to providing value for money in how these services are delivered.

Benefits of this new model of care for people with eating disorders would include more timely access to assessment and early intervention, greater access to clinicians with specialist training in eating disorders care across the system, dedicated physician/ paediatrician time and access to dieticians, and support for families and carers through the partnership with Bodywhys.

The HSE’s partners in developing this model were Bodywhys and the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and a four-year implementation plan has been approved to allow for phased recruitment and training.

Anne O’Connor, HSE’s National Director for Community Operations welcomed the focus on early intervention for patients: “People can and do recover from eating disorders and specialist evidence-based outpatient treatment is associated with faster recovery. The focus on early intervention to achieve clinical and personal recovery in this relatively young group is key to person-centred care and the sustainability of mental health services over their lifespan.

“We are also now seeing a coordinated approach to specialised care for those attending outpatient, day patient or inpatient programmes, which is an important development for eating disorder services. Family involvement in treatment is also particularly important in younger age groups”.

Dr Áine Carroll, national director of clinical strategy and programmes, highlighted the importance collaboration of health care professionals across the HSE: “A big thank you to everyone involved in the development of this Model of Care which recognises that for timely and adequate recovery of an individual with an eating disorder, bridging the gap between mental and physical health services through person-centred coordinated care is crucial. This model of care was developed with that rounded vision and much is to be said for the hard work, collaborative and consultative work that went into its development”,

It has been recommended that  eight dedicated child and adolescent and eight adult eating disorder teams be established which will cover population sizes of 400,000-600,000. The locations of proposed hub locations are Galway, Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny, Sligo, Limerick, Waterford, and potential smaller hubs in Cavan.