I have spent the last couple of days mixing with some of the most amazing, loving, caring, passionate and selfless people I have ever met. Of course I've met some of them before (for example at the 2-day Nottingham FEAST conference in November last year), and I already 'knew' many of them from the online community of people that are passionate about making a difference in the world of eating disorders: parents, former sufferers and professionals. And, although eating disorders is such a massive topic that a one-day conference, like the National Carers Conference in Eating Disorders I attended yesterday at the Institute of Psychiatry, run by Professor Janet Treasure, Gill Todd and the Maudsley & Kings College London, can't ever hope to do more than chip away at a huge iceberg, it did a bloody good job! But what stood out for me most, on reflection, is this...
There are a heck of a lot of people out there, both salaried and unsalaried, lay people and professionals, who are working like the clappers to make postive, lasting and effective changes in the world of eating disorder treatment and the quality of the care that parents provide at home, through outstanding evidence-based education and guidance.
From the meal the night before (where around 30 of us dined at the invitation of the truly amazing Professor Janet Treasure OBE and the equally wonderful Gill Todd) through to the conference itself the following day, I found myself amongst strong, passionate people that... well... CARE.
And they don't just care, they are working tooth and nail to drive research forward to come up with ever-more effective ways of eradicating this toxic illness - eating disorders - from our children's lives, whether the child is 8, 18 or 58.
Yes, they are all hampered by NHS budgets and red-tape, but it was clear to so many people yesterday that the latest trail-blazing approaches to the treatment of eating disorders could save the NHS £millions or even more. Not only is the family brought in to play a major role in the treatment of their child, taking some of the pressure off the professionals and ensuring that the child receives good, evidence-based treatment 24/7 from those that love them most, but this kind of family-based treatment can often avoid costly in-patient admissions. And, of course, families do it for free.
And, for those of us who couldn't give a hoot about the money side, because we believe the NHS should pull out all the stops to save our children's lives no matter what it costs... research is showing that, on the whole, this kind of treatment leads to a quicker, more effective and most lasting outcome.
Plus, it saves more precious lives.
So not only could the NHS save a pot of money and dramatically cut the waiting lists for treatment by freeing up the professionals' time, but our children would get good treatment sooner, recover quicker and enjoy a better quality of life with less chance of relapse.
Of course I can hear 'the powers that be' piping up with: "It's not that simple! The NHS doesn't work like this! Funding... red tape... poor inter-department and inter-Trusts communication... 'old ways' and so on..."
No, I'm sorry, but to me, as a parent who gets irritated by red-tape and likes to KEEP THINGS SIMPLE and sweep all the clutter and crap out of the way, this seems like a no-brainer.
But, of course, thus far it's only happening in tiny pockets across the country - and over the past couple of days I've met people who are the driving force behind this push for change.
I hope and pray... and hope and pray that I can play a part in this along with trail-blazers like the amazing parents' advocate and eating disorders treatment pioneer Charlotte Bevan and other parents... that this kind of thinking will be rolled out across the country very, very soon, making a massive inroad into the recovery rates for eating disorders in the UK.