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Cambridge MP writes to Matt Hancock over anorexia inquests

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image copyrightFamily photographs
image captionClockwise, from top left: Maddy Wallace, Amanda Bowles, Averil Hart, Emma Brown and Maria Jakes

An MP has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock about concerns in anorexia treatment in the wake of five inquests for women who died with the illness.

Issues including patient monitoring and poor clinical training were raised at inquests for the women, who died in Cambridgeshire between 2012 and 2018.

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner asked Mr Hancock what "the government plan to learn from this terrible situation".

The Department of Health told the BBC: "It is vital we learn lessons".

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough assistant coroner Sean Horstead said he would write a prevention of future deaths report following the inquests into the deaths of Averil Hart, Emma Brown, Maria Jakes, Amanda Bowles and Madeline Wallace.

  • How anorexia took the lives of five women
image copyrightFamily photo
image captionAmanda Bowles was found dead at her Cambridge home in September 2017

Mr Horstead said the "absence of a formally commissioned monitoring service in primary or secondary care is the context wherein a number of these deaths have arisen".

The coroner also raised concerns over education and training, finding a "level of ignorance amongst medical practitioners that has yet to change".

Mr Horstead said there was "a hope that the tide can be turned" and that the inquests "can be the start of that in some small way".

image copyrightFamily photo
image captionMaria Jakes died at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge in September 2018

Ms Bowles, Ms Jakes and Miss Hart all died in Cambridge and in his letter to Mr Hancock, the city's Labour MP Mr Zeichner said: "I am sure you agree with me that these are truly tragic cases and our hearts go out to the families of these women."

He added: "I would be grateful if you could let me know what lessons the government plan to learn from this terrible situation so as to improve the quality of NHS provisions for those with eating disorders such as anorexia to prevent more deaths, both in Cambridge and Peterborough, and nationally."

A spokesman for the department said: "Every death from an eating disorder is a tragedy and it is vital we learn lessons where things have gone wrong to ensure the NHS provides safe, high quality care, including by responding effectively to matters of concern raised by coroners.

"We are committed to ensuring those who need it can access support and are expanding eating disorder services through the NHS's long-term plan, including scaling up early intervention services to support young people."

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  • Anorexia: How the eating disorder took the lives of five women