Anorexia is both an eating disorder and serious mental health condition and carries the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder. Treatment often requires a tailor-made plan to help the patient understand about nutrition and the cause of the eating disorder. It’s a very complicated and deadly illness and treatment services were buckling under pressure even before the pandemic hit. 

The need for reform and improvement of the treatment of anorexia has been highlighted following a series of inquests in late 2020 into the deaths of five women. These women all died between 2012 and 2018 and had been under the care of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust. Sean Horstead, the assistant coroner, raised his concerns about the treatment which the women had received for their anorexia in a Prevention of Future Deaths report and described the system as a “lucky dip” as to whether patients get the care and support they need.

The main issues which have been identified within the existing system were found to be the ongoing lack of a robust medical monitoring process, lack of early intervention support, and a total lack of care/support for severe and enduring eating disorder patients. It was recommended that greater clinical training should be given to all levels of medical staff about eating disorders.

The Eating Disorder Exemplar Project was funded by NHS England on 5 November 2019 and was put in place to find a better way of treating anorexia within the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area. Sadly, the formal launch of the service has now been delayed until October 2021. The impact of Covid-19 has been named as the main driver of the delay in implementing the project “due to increase in referrals, acuity and the need to pause transformation work to focus on managing demand, restoration and recovery.”

The delay to the exemplar project calls attention to the wider impact which the pandemic has had upon healthcare needs, which includes a national increase in referrals related to eating disorders.

It is positive that there has been some progress made to date including the project engaging with and seeking feedback from carers and individuals with experience of eating disorders. A ‘GP Advice’ line has also been implemented for staff who require extra help for their patients.

Getting help for anorexia

If you think you may have anorexia, even if you're not sure, see a GP as soon as you can. You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat by calling its adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.

As clinical negligence lawyers we represent families and individuals who have suffered due to failings in the health system. If you have concerns regarding the care provided to you or a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free, confidential discussion on 01865 781000 or

The Freeths national clinical negligence department is headed by:

Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford/London/Bristol/Milton Keynes) - 0186 578 1019

Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby/Stoke on Trent/Birmingham/Manchester/Liverpool) - 0845 274 6830

Jane Williams, Partner (Nottingham/Leicester/Sheffield/Leeds) - 0845 272 5724