Elisa Rivera, eating disorder co-ordinator for Devon and Torbay LAURENCE UNDERHILL EE160908_LU05_07
PEOPLE with eating disorders are set to benefit from a new day and community service that could give them support without putting them into hospital.
The Haldon Unit in Exeter, Devon's specialist eating disorder clinic, currently has a waiting list — but not everybody with eating disorders needs to become an inpatient.
In plans that could reduce the waiting list as well as offer people more support in their local areas, Devon Partnership Trust is carrying out pioneering work.
Elisa Rivera , consultant clinical psychologist at Devon Partnership Trust, said there were two main strands to the service's plans for the future.
By next spring, the trust, which is responsible for mental health care in the county, hopes to offer a day treatment facility to people with eating disorders.
Ms Rivera said people would be able to come into the Haldon unit, at Wonford House Hospital, during the day for a period of time, while also accessing services in their local area.
"There will hopefully be eight extra spaces for people to come in for the day," she said.
"We're talking about people who are still quite ill and whose eating is very chaotic."
The day treatment would run as a four-day session, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and staff at the trust are also looking into offering people a support house if they live too far from the area to travel in.
The scheme, which could be running by spring next year, would create jobs for a dietician, occupational therapist and some nursing staff.
But more support is also going to be offered in areas of Mid and East Devon and Teignbridge, among others.
Ms Rivera said: "Most community support nurses and most GPs have seen someone with an eating disorder.
"I know there are people doing incredible work with people with eating disorders. They all want to know how they can better support people."
More training about eating disorders will be given to medical professionals. A laminated guide will also be issued to GPs to help them diagnose the severity of eating disorders and point patients in the right direction for help.
Ms Rivera said it was important for people to recognise the severity of eating disorders, which have a greater mortality rate than depression and schizophrenia.
She added treatment was not just a case of feeding somebody back up. Eating disorders were often a coping mechanism and an essential part of recovery is assessing what is wrong and helping people address these problems, she added.