€137,000 Expenditure by HSE in 2 Years on Eating Disorder Programme

By Seamus Whelehan

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Serious concerns have been raised following the publication of new HSE figures which reveal that less than 5% of allocated monies for eating disorders has been spent.

The latest statistic comes on the back of a commitment made in January 2018 by the HSE for a new 5 year Programme of Care for those with eating disorders in Ireland.

The HSE partners in developing this stepped-care approach are Bodywhys and the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland.

The Health Care provider said the aim is to improve quality and safety access to services for all ages.

Of the €3.1 million given over to the Clinical Programme on Eating Disorders in 2018 and 2019, almost €140,000 has been used up.

In 2018 just €137,000 of the €1.5 million allocated for that year was paid out, with no funds expended this year to date.

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Mental Health, Deputy Pat Buckley, said the figure just proves that the Government is interested only in carrying out a “window dressing” exercise, when it comes to mental health.

“It’s a disgrace that money made available is not being drawn down, yet here we are with €3million sitting in the kitty unspent, while the most vulnerable are being ignored.”

Deputy Buckley said Mental Health is the Cinderella of the Health Service.

“Over the past number of years the Government has financed mental health media campaigns encouraging people to ‘please talk’, but if we want people to speak up then we must have people who can listen.”

Jacinta Hastings, CEO of Bodywhys, the Eating Disorder Association, said it is very disappointing and concerning that the funding has not been released.

Ms Hastings said “eating disorders have been identified as a key mental health priority as this is an area which has been neglected for so long. Prolonged waiting lists puts lives at risk and extends unnecessary deterioration.  We call on the Minister to intervene as a matter of urgency."

The Cork based Eating Disorder Centre say that children as young as 5 years of age have presented to them with an eating disorder, depression and low self-esteem.

Trish Shiels, Group Director, said they are desperate for more funding to deliver more intensive and early intervention programmes.

There are over 200,000 people in Ireland who are living with an eating disorder, according to Bodywhys. Almost 2,000 new eating disorder cases develop each year in the 10-49 year age group, with females 3 times more likely than males to develop an eating disorder.

Data published by the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Surveillance System has revealed that up to 4,000 children and adolescents in Ireland between the ages of 8 to 17 may be suffering from anorexia nervosa –which has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric conditions.

These figures have doubled since 2006.  The escalation of the problem is reflected in the increase in referrals to CAMHS services provided by the HSE, where there has been a 40% increase in referrals since 2011.

According to the Health Research Board (HRB), admissions to Psychiatric Units and Hospitals in 2017 accounted for 14% of children and adolescents with an eating disorder.

In the latest data released by the Board, females accounted for 89% of total eating disorder admissions, with the remaining 11% affecting males.

Experts say increased stress at school, and image obsessed social media platforms, are partly to blame.

In a statement the HSE say that, in 2018 €1.5m was allocated for the Clinical Programme on Eating Disorders, and a number of posts have progressed to the value of €137k.

Regarding 2019 the HSE Estimates Process resulted in an allocation of €1.6m for Eating Disorder posts. This €1.6m formed part of the €12m which is currently held by the Department of Health and so, in effect, this will not become available to mental health until January 2020.  No posts were therefore progressed in relation to 2019 funds.

Anyone affected by issues raised in this article can contact Bodywhys on 01-2107906 or e-mail info@bodywhys.ie

The Early Eating Disorder Centre Cork can be contacted on 021 453 9900 or by email on info@edcc.ie

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