Mental health patients to be treated equally with patients with physical problems

  • Charity, Beat, are calling on the government to do more to help people with eating disorders.

    Beat says that people with mental health problems are being left on waiting lists for treatment for too long, making conditions worse and in some cases can prove fatal.

    The government are instance that they want mental health patients, including people with eating disorders, to be treated equally to patients with physical problems.

    One woman with an eating disorder said that once she had asked her doctor for help and was referred to a specialist for help she thought it would be the start of her recovery. What she found was that it took six months for her to be properly assed and then found it would be another 18 months before she could start treatment, reports the BBC.

    "You're just left stranded," she says. "You think, 'If I make myself worse they might take more notice'."

    If this woman had been suffering with a physical illness, she would have had a legal right to begin treatment within no more than 18 weeks. However mental health patients have no such guarantee.

    Susan Ringwood, chief executive of eating disorder charity Beat, says that early treatment is key.

    "Eating disorders are fatal in up to 20% of cases," she says. "That's the highest death rate of any mental illness.

    "We know that when people have to wait a long time for treatment, their illness can get worse. In the most serious cases, people's lives can be lost."

    The charity surveyed 331 people with eating disorders in August 2013 about their treatment.

    "We were shocked to find that 26% of the people we spoke to had waited more than six months," Ms Ringwood adds.

    "We want clear waiting times to be set, so people can know when their treatment is going to start."

    Care minister Norman Lamb says this has to be a "very urgent priority".

    "In mental health, we don't even know how long people are waiting," he says. "That's why this survey is of great value, because it demonstrates the seriousness of the problem.

    "I want to get to a point where, by 2015, we introduce access standards, so that people know how long they should be expected to wait as a maximum."

    But he admits that it's not going to be easy.

    "I don't know whether I will achieve it yet, but I'm determined to try to secure that."

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