16 January 2013
LIGHTBULB INNOVATION: Bringing anorexia care closer to home…
06 07 2012 | Frontline First team
Anorexia is a condition that affects one in 200 women and girls in the United Kingdom and, perhaps surprisingly, is the leading cause of mental health-related deaths. The condition affects men too, but in far smaller numbers, with about one in 2000 men suffering from the condition.
For the young girl with anorexia, the condition can be devastating. It can also have a profound effect on her family, with parents struggling to understand what they can do to help and why their child won’t eat ‘normally’.
When the condition gets serious, and the weight of the patient falls to dangerously low levels, the care can often be intense, with patients needing to stay at dedicated care units for prolonged periods of time. Needless to say, this puts even more strain on the individual and their family, not to mention costing the NHS a huge amount of money.
Nurse Consultant in child and adolescent mental health services, Sue Kelly, knew that there was a better way of caring for these patients and involving their families.
Sue set up the Family Eating Disorder Service, or FEDS, in West Sussex, an outreach service delivering high quality care to young people in their own homes, instead of an inpatient unit. The results have been remarkable. The home-based nature of the service means that the young patients can still attend school or college and their parents feel involved in their child’s recovery to a healthy weight and frame of mind. Before the service began, patients would have had to have been referred to the Chalkhill Children and Adolescents Mental Health Unit, potentially for extended periods of time. If the patient had to be referred outside of Sue’s area, it could cost £5,000 a week.
Originally, FEDS started as a pilot, as projects like these often do. However, its success has now meant that Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has made the service permanent, and it is easy to see why. Before the service, the typical length of stay at the Chalkhill Unit was over six months. Thanks to the support delivered by Sue and her team, that figure now stands at just over two months. FEDS has ensured that not only has the length of stay reduced, but the associated costs have plummeted too. More importantly, patients are able to be cared for where they feel most comfortable, and parents who once felt unsure and confused about anorexia, can feel part of the care process.
Sue’s team have done a remarkable job and prove beyond doubt just what nursing is capable of.