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Early Intervention Eating Disorders Programme

The West of England AHSN, as part of the AHSN Network,  is assisting the national adoption of evidenced based models including FREED (First episode Rapid Early intervention for Eating Disorders). This work will support mental health teams across West of England to speed up diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders in young people aged 16 to 25.

What is the problem we’re addressing?

An eating disorder is an unhealthy attitude to food, which can take over an individual’s life and cause illness. It can involve eating too much or too little, or becoming obsessed with your weight and body shape. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder (BED), and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED).

Eating disorders are serious mental health problems with high levels of mortality.

Peak onset for eating disorders is during adolescence and early adulthood, a sensitive time when the brain is still developing. Evidence suggests that treatment outcomes are best if the condition is identified and treated within the first three years of illness.  Currently, 30% of young people referred for eating disorders treatment wait over 18 weeks and another 34% waited over six months. Most of these saw their condition get worse whilst waiting.

Eating disorders affect 600,000 – 725,000 people in the UK every year with an associated £3.9 – £4.6 billion in NHS treatment costs, £6.8 – £8 billion in lost income and £2.6 – £3.1 billion in carer-related costs each year.

The FREED model:

The FREED model was developed by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London. It is an innovative, evidence-based, specialist care package for 16 to 25-year-olds with a first episode eating disorder of less than 3 years duration.

The model:

  • provides highly coordinated early care
  • has a central focus on reducing the duration of an untreated eating disorder
  • is overseen and led by a FREED champion
  • consists of a service model and a care package of evidenced based treatments
  • has a target waiting time from referral to treatment of 4 weeks

There is an emphasis on early engagement and change, family involvement, attention to social media use, and attention to transitions (such as transitions out of child/adolescent services and those to university, employment and other adult roles).

More information

For further information on the FREED model, visit the FREED website.

For further information on the Early Intervention Eating Disorders Programme in the West of England, please contact Rachel Gibbons, Senior Project Manager.