Anorexia deaths: Health minister says government 'committed to learning'

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

A minister has assured an MP the government is "committed to learning lessons" from the deaths of five women with anorexia.

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner raised concerns over the deaths in Cambridgeshire from 2012 to 2018.

Issues including patient monitoring and poor clinical training were raised at their inquests.

Health Minister Nadine Dorries told him "improving eating disorders services is a key priority for the government".

After the inquests into the deaths of Averil Hart, Emma Brown, Maria Jakes, Amanda Bowles and Madeline Wallace, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough assistant coroner Sean Horstead said the "absence of a formally commissioned monitoring service... is the context wherein a number of these deaths have arisen".

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 a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the city's Labour MP Mr Zeichner asked what "the government plan to learn from this terrible situation".

Replying to Mr Zeichner, Ms Dorries said she understood his concerns.

She said that in October, NHS England announced an early intervention service for young people with eating disorders in 18 places across the country, meaning people "could be contacted within 48 hours and begin treatment within two weeks".

image copyrightFamily photo
image captionAmanda Bowles was found dead at her Cambridge home in September 2017

The minister said waiting time targets meant "95% of children with an eating disorder will receive treatment within one week for urgent cases and within four weeks for routine cases".

She said that eight of the 12 areas in England that had received more than £70m of "transformation funding" were "implementing innovative" eating disorder service models.

In response, Mr Zeichner said: "I welcome the minister's commitment to learn lessons from these tragic deaths.

"Improving the knowledge and understanding of mental health issues among GPs is a pressing challenge which will need concerted effort, and financial support for hard-pressed doctors."

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