Mersey Care launch new eating disorder service for young people in Liverpool

A new service designed to help young people battling with eating disorders in Liverpool has been launched to help them access services quicker and help their recovery.

Run by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, one of the leading mental health and community health trusts in the country, the new service begins today (9 November 2020) and is open to 16 to 25-year-olds in the city who have had an eating disorder for three years or less.

The ‘First Episode Rapid Early Intervention for Eating Disorders’ (FREED) service was originally planned to launch in April, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a flexible, evidence-based treatment approach. FREED’s focus on early intervention, makes it more effective at reversing the changes to the brain, body and behaviour caused by eating disorders.

“Studies suggest that the first three years of illness are crucial in treating eating disorders,” said Dr Uma Patel, Mersey Care’s Eating Disorder Service Lead.

“Eating disorders tend to persist over time and the longer a young person is unwell, the more likely it is they experience significant issues so we’re really excited to have the opportunity to launch the Liverpool FREED service. We’re hopeful that early intervention will support good outcomes for young adults with eating disorders in Liverpool.”

Eating disorders historically have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder. Recent media exposure, including former cricketer Andrew Flintoff’s documentary on Bulimia, have led to an upsurge in young men referring for treatment..

One in seven women are likely to experience it over the course of their lifetime and peak onset is during adolescence and young adulthood. Nationally, referrals have also increased following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK lockdowns.

The new service, which was initially designed and piloted by the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, will be based at Rathbone Hospital in Liverpool. In these unprecedented times the team are offering remote support. Patients wishing to use it can be referred via their GP through the main Eating Disorder Service.

Liverpool FREED will also become part the national FREED network, which joins them up with other specialist eating disorder services using the model across the country.