Newcastle’s MP urges fair care and treatment for eating disorder patients in North Staffs

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13 Mar 2019

Newcastle’s MP Paul Farrelly has urged our local NHS to put to an end, finally, the ‘postcode lottery’ that unfairly discriminates against anorexia and other eating disorder patients in North Staffordshire, compared with sufferers in other parts of the County. 

After meetings last year, in a letter to Marcus Warnes – the Chief Executive of all six Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Groups – he has asked for positive news from their annual ‘prioritisation process’, which decides on services for the coming financial year. 

At the moment, specialist treatment is commissioned by North Staffordshire and Stoke-on- Trent CCGs – covering Newcastle, Stoke and Staffordshire Moorlands – for children up to 18, but when they come of age this stops, leaving families wanting for specialist help.

Paul has been working with local families, clinicians and the campaigning charity, BEAT Eating Disorders, to try and make sure they get the support they need.

At the end of February, he helped host BEAT’s annual Eating Disorders Awareness Week at Westminster - to promote wider acknowledgment of the devastating effects that anorexia, bulimia and other similar conditions have on the lives of patients, families and friends.

In a debate during the week, Paul again highlighted the situation in North Staffordshire against that in the rest of the County. A link to the debate can be found here

The budget for specialist, post-18 eating disorder services in the four CCGs serving the centre, east and south of the county is £428,000 a year, but for North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent CCGs, it is currently exactly zero.

In December, Paul also served Freedom of Information requests on all 190-plus of England’s CCGs about the full extent of their services and funding, and in the New Year to the top health body, NHS England. Follow-up questions to the Secretary of State are in hand, but the overall picture for adults across the country is certainly better than in North Staffordshire. 

‘Specialist 18+ treatment is a postcode lottery in our area —an “unwarranted variation”, in the NHS jargon— that has persisted for far too long, is patently unfair and lets local families down badly,’ Paul said. ‘It’s time for consistency - and proper, prioritised support.’ 

In the debate, Paul spoke about one of his constituents, Sarah Pustkowski, who was brave enough to speak out publicly last autumn about the effects of her condition. 

Sarah is 25 and developed anorexia nervosa when she was 16. Her father first approached Paul in 2014, when she was 20, to relate what a ‘cliff edge’ they had fallen off, in terms of specialist support after she became an adult. 

After the debate, young people from across the country gathered in Central Lobby in Parliament to meet their MPs. 

‘It was an emotional day for many, but thoroughly inspiring how these brave youngsters shared their experiences,’ Paul added. ‘These young people are challenging the stigma around mental health and let’s hope that this is matched by improvements in service provision.’