The slow delivery of specialist eating disorder teams across the country is potentially putting lives at risk, according to Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns.
“Of the 16 community-based teams promised under the HSE’s National Model of Care for Eating Disorders in 2018, just three are operational,” she said.
“The pace of progress is completely unacceptable and represents a significant gap in our mental health services.
“The clinical programme aimed to establish an eating disorder network comprising eight adult teams and eight CAMHS (Child and Adult Mental Health Service) teams.
“Last year, the HSE informed me that nine multidisciplinary teams would be in place by the end of 2022.
“However, it has now emerged that serious recruitment difficulties have delayed progress on the programme, which was expected to be delivered within five years.
“It is widely accepted that outpatient specialist care is the most effective treatment setting for many people with eating disorders.
“The Model of Care was intended as the blueprint for the rollout of a community-based network to address the unmet need for dedicated eating disorder services.
“Recent years have seen an alarming rise in psychiatric inpatient admissions for children and adolescents presenting with eating disorders, an issue that predominately affects women.
“This is an area that is constantly under-resourced, despite eating disorders being among the psychiatric conditions most associated with mortality.
“Lack of investment means people often have to go to the UK for treatment, paid for by the State, while others are forced to spend thousands on private care.
“We need greater intervention at primary care level to prevent these situations escalating to inpatient admissions.
“I will be seeking an update on this issue when the Dáil resumes next week.
“Any recruitment or funding barriers delaying the rollout of public eating disorder services must be urgently addressed by the Minister for Mental Health and the HSE.”