Eating disorders First Step service launched in Bristol

A new service to speed up the process for people seeking help for eating disorders has been launched in Bristol.

University of Bristol and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) said the aim is to treat people before they need specialist help.

It follows a pilot run by the university student health service department in 2009-10.

AWP said the number of referrals for eating disorders in the city had risen by about 50% in the past seven years.

The new First Step service is open to anyone aged over 18 and registered with a Bristol-based GP.

The GP will refer the patient straight to the First Step service - if appropriate - and be seen within four weeks by an eating disorder psychologist or therapist.

The treatment is based at three practices across the city and includes one-to-one and group sessions and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

'Greatest death risk'

Clinical psychologist Will Devlin, from AWP, said: "There's been a move over the last few years for mental health services to be delivered closer to people's homes through GP practices.

"As far as we know it's never been done with eating disorders, so Bristol really leads the country in the delivery of primary care in eating disorders.

"People who have eating disorders are at greater risk of illness and death than any other mental health problem.

"In terms of illness and death - eating disorders are as scary as they get."

Dr Dominique Thompson from the university's Students' Health Service said they wanted people seeking help to be seen much faster and to have access to services more local to them.

"A few years ago you had to go through a two step process," she said.

"You had to be first be seen by a general psychiatrist and then by a specialist eating disorder psychiatrist and we've taken that [process] out."

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