Friday 8 December 2017

A catalogue of disgraceful and avoidable failings that led to this tragic outcome

My mum pointed out this newspaper report today about a teen who was "left to starve in her university flat". Yet again we have what appears to be an avoidable death from a deadly illness - anorexia - that seems to have come about through a catalogue of failings by the NHS.

At the end of the article we get the usual promises about plans to invest £loads-of-money in eating disorder treatment to avoid tragedies like this happening again. But I don't doubt that they will happen again... and again... and again - and it's one of the reasons why I, and others, fight to raise awareness of the deadly nature of eating disorders and the, all too often, less than ideal treatment.

And even if the £loads-of-money funding does get spent in the right places and young people's lives are saved as a result, it doesn't make this tragedy any easier for this young woman's family to bear.

The same goes for other families that have lost a son or daughter from an eating disorder.

Such as a friend of mine who lost her daughter while that daughter was under the care of the NHS.

As parents entering the alarming and terrifying world of eating disorders for the first time, we trust the professionals to do everything that is required - and more - at every stage of the process: swift diagnosis and referral, excellent evidence-based treatment by rigorously trained and experienced practitioners, discharge from eating disorder treatment ONLY when as close as possible to 100-per-cent recovered and meticulous, closely monitored follow-up to ensure the young person is kept safe and continues on the road to recovery.

Quite simply, we trust the professionals with our much-loved child's life.

We also trust any peripheral professionals to understand the deadly nature of eating disorders and to take effective action - for example GPs, surgery nurses, emergency departments, other hospital departments, ambulance personnel and so on.

And, in the case of young people at college and university, we also trust the on-campus NHS professionals to know what to do.

After all, eating disorders aren't unusual amongst students and, often, students are having to cope with their eating disorder away from home, away from hands-on support from their parents or carers.

In 2012, as soon as it became evident that my son had left for university too soon after discharge from treatment, we brought him back home and he took a gap year, despite our treatment team saying that they couldn't "see any reason why he wouldn't be ready for university".

The following spring we worked closely with the university to put together a support package which, on the face of it, was excellent. But with the best will and the best support package in the world, it is always going to depend on the young person SEEKING HELP - of being aware that they are sick and need support.

Those of us who have faced an eating disorder in the family will be all too aware that, often, the last person to realise that there is a problem is the patient themself.

The newspaper report says:"The report said the student had been let down by every NHS organisation tasked with her care, some of whom later sought to hinder investigations into their mistakes."

It makes me hopping mad.

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