News & Media

Presentations of eating disorders increasing – Ireland cannot outsource problem to the UK

24 June 2021

Statement by Senator Annie Hoey
Spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science

Labour Senator Annie Hoey has called on the Minister for Health to provide a detailed outline on his plans to increase dedicated beds and specialised services for people living with eating disorders. Referencing comments made by Mr Justice Peter Kelly that inadequate services are forcing people to travel for treatment, Senator Hoey said the National Eating Disorder programme must be revisited, with investment properly resourced, community-based specialists.

Senator Hoey said:

“Eating disorder presentations are increasing. In 2020, presentations increased by 66% in 2020 in Ireland, compared with 2019, of which 58% were for anorexia nervosa. It is clear that the issue of mental health – and eating disorders in particular – is reaching a chronic phase. The unacceptably low levels of dedicated services matched only by the low lack of ambition by the Minister to tackle this issue.

“Many groups have fought hard to highlight the rise in eating disorders, which began long before Covid. However, there is a clear lack of interest from the Government to provide support; money allocated in budgets is not being spent despite need, the same 3 beds have been available for ED care for over a decade now; despite clear knowledge that eating disorders have the highest mortality and morbidity of all of the mental health conditions. Even the HSE have announced that the National Eating Disorder plan to establish 16 specialist treatment hubs across Ireland by the start of 2023 has not been delayed until the end of 2026.

“The increased use of wardships for patients suffering from anorexia by the HSE as highlighted by Mr. Justice Peter Kelly should be a wakeup call to the Minister. Yet again we are seeing when it comes to health, we often find an English solution to an Irish problem - nobody living in Ireland should have to travel to the UK for what should be basic health care.

“There needs to be public access to proper services and intervention to support those living with an eating disorder to recover. Research from CARED Ireland in 2021 show that 42% of those caring for people with eating disorders are paying for treatment at their own expense; 40% have handed over €10,000 and upwards from personal funds, alongside 13% who have paid between €20,000 and €50,000 for treatment. This two-tiered approach to health care is leaving behind the most vulnerable in our society.

“This is an issue that has been raised repeatedly in recent months by different members of the opposition, it has also been highlighted again and again by people living with eating disorders and their families. We are failing people living with, and trying to survive, with eating disorders. It is not good enough."