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Northern Ireland Regional Care Pathway for the Treatment of Eating Disorders Launched


The Health and Social Care Board and the Public Health Agency launched the Northern Ireland Regional Care Pathway for the Treatment of Eating Disorders.

The Eating Disorder Care Pathway is accompanied by a Guide for People Using Eating Disorders Services. This is written by, and for, people who have experience of using the services and their family members. An information leaflet for GPs, to support recognition of the signs of eating disorders and encouraging early referral, was also launched.

Minister of Health, Michelle O’Neill, welcomed the publication of the care pathway, saying:

“It’s very positive that the new care pathway has been jointly developed by people with lived experience of eating disorder services, family members, carers, clinicians and professionals. It is not just a document for health staff, but a genuinely accessible guide for everyone who needs or experiences eating disorder services.  Involving people with lived experience in the design of mental health services will be one of my key principles as Minister, as will parity of esteem for mental health, and I’m delighted that the care pathway recognises that mental health care should have parity with physical health care. It’s also important that the care pathway recognises that with the right support, many people recover completely or are able to manage their symptoms in a way which reduces the impact on their lives.

“In December, I will be receiving a report which will outline how we might wish to develop eating disorder services in the future and I will also consider the potential benefit from an all-Ireland approach in terms of pooling resources and sharing expertise on the island. In moving forward with this, my Department will continue to work with experts by experience.

The Eating Disorder Care Pathway tells people what they can expect if they are referred for treatment. It provides a summary of clinical advice for all sectors of the health service derived from evidence based practice. It also includes information about self-care and about accessing support before, during and after treatment.

Fionnuala McAndrew, Director of Social Care and Children at the Board said: “The Eating Disorder Care Pathway sets standards which enable us to develop eating disorder services making the best use of existing resources, and provides a robust framework for future service development. It creates opportunities for working together to ensure better outcomes for people needing our eating disorder services.”

The care pathway was developed collaboratively by members of the Regional Eating Disorders Network. This includes clinical specialists, experts with lived experience of using services and their family members. The pathway draws upon the NICE clinical guideline for the treatment of eating disorders.

Speaking at the launch Jillian Lennox from StampED praised the recovery ethos underpinning the care pathway: “One day it just clicks. You realise what’s important and what isn’t. You learn to care less about what other people think of you and more about what you think of yourself. You realise how far you’ve come and you remember when you thought things were such a mess that they’d never recover. And then you smile. You smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you’ve fought to become”.

The Eating Disorders Guide for People Using Services, identifies some of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and explains what to expect when referred for treatment or care. Complementing the Eating Disorder Care Pathway, the guide provides useful contact information for all Eating Disorder Teams in Health and Social Care Trusts. It details: peer and carer support groups run by the Eating Disorders Association NI, AMH Defeat ED, and StampED; online resources for young men experiencing an eating disorder provided by the Laurence Trust; and training and support for parents delivered by CARED.

Welcoming the introduction of the guide, Ann McCann from the Eating Disorder Association NI said: “It can be very worrying for parents when their son or daughter stops eating. The care pathway guide for service users and family members will help them understand that good treatment is available here in Northern Ireland, and signpost them to organisations that can provide information and support for them and their loved one throughout treatment and beyond.”

The information leaflet – Early Intervention in Eating Disorders Information for General Practice – provides guidance to general practitioners (GPs). They are often the first point of contact for people presenting with a suspected eating disorder. It provides an index to help GPs detect eating disorders and has information about referral routes into Health and Social Care Trust eating disorder services and local voluntary groups to support early intervention, which evidence shows significantly improves prognosis.

Dr Stephen Bergin, Public Health Agency, said: “GPs are often the first professionals to see someone with a possible eating disorder. This new resource includes an easy to use brief assessment tool that will help GPs identify someone with a potential disorder as soon as possible. We therefore hope to detect cases much earlier than previously.”

The Regional Care Pathway for the Treatment of Eating Disorders, the Guide for People Using Services and their Family Members and the Early Intervention in Eating Disorders Information Leaflet for General Practice are available in electronic and hard copy versions. Download from the Health and Social Care Board website at www.hscboard.hscni.net/our-work/social-care-and-children/mental-health.


  1. The report on future eating disorder services, due in December, is the second phase of a study announced by the Department of Health last year. The report is being developed by the Regional Eating Disorders Network Group, which includes representatives from the Department of Health, Health and Social Care Board, Public Health Agency, Health and Social Care Trusts and the voluntary sector, including experts by experience.
  2. The eating disorder resources launched today have been developed in line with NICE Guideline CG9 (2004) Eating Disorders: Core interventions in the treatment and management of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and related eating disorders www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg9