Campaigners to march for improvements to eating disorder treatment

Campaigners will march through London this month as part of calls to improve access to eating disorder treatment. 

The second Dump the Scales march will see people walk from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street on 27 April in an effort to get cross-party commitment in Parliament to tackle eating disorders. 

This comes after The Independent reported last year that many people are being denied access to NHS eating disorder treatment for not being thin enough.

Hope Virgo, who founded the Dump the Scales campaign and is a survivor of anorexia nervosa, said: “Eating disorders have been underfunded and stigmatised for the last decade and we need to change that.

“As well as applying political pressure, this march is about shining a light on the fact that people with eating disorders should not be marked as untreatable or moved onto palliative care but given the treatment they need.”

Labour MP for Tooting Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Baroness Kate Parminter, sports presenter Rachael Dowie and influencer Megan Jaye Crabbe will give speeches at the end of the march at Parliament Square.

Figures obtained by The Independent show that at least 5,385 patients were admitted to general wards for conditions such as anorexia and bulimia in 2021-22, more than double the number in 2017-18.

Many people are being turned away from treatment because their Body Mass Index (BMI) is not considered low enough. 

This is despite current National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines stipulating that patients should not be judged for eating disorder treatment solely on their BMI.

Virgo said: “At the moment unless you are underweight it is very difficult to access treatment for an eating disorder but only 6% of people with an eating disorder will fall into that underweight bracket. 

“That massively limits the amount of people that can get support.

“The aim of the Dump the Scales campaign is to show the government and society that eating disorders can affect people of all different backgrounds and body sizes.”

The first Dump the Scales march took place last May and saw more than 600 people take part.

Dump the Scales: Virgo (left) at last year’s march.

Virgo explained that last year’s march allowed people with eating disorders to come together. 

She said: “It became a space where people with eating disorders could talk to others and get to a space where they do not feel alone in what they are dealing with, which is key with eating disorders because they are very isolating illnesses.”

The march will begin at Trafalgar Square at 10:30am. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are determined to support people with eating disorders, which is why we are increasing the number of health care staff able to treat people with the condition.

“Since 2018/19, overall spending on mental health services, including for eating disorders, has increased by more than £4.5 billion and we are also investing an additional £54 million to expand children and young people’s services across the country.”

An NHS London spokesperson said: “There has been significant expansion and investment in the London Region for Adults, Children and Young people with Eating Disorders or Disordered Eating services. 

“Integrated Care Systems for example are benefiting from three years of transformation funding to the value of £155.5M to deliver new integrated community models of care for adults and older adults with severe mental illness, including care for people with eating disorders between 2021/22 and 2023/24.”

All image credits: Hope Virgo

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