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New eating disorder service in Wimbledon aims to save NHS ‘thousands’ by preventing relapse and repeated hospital treatments

A new treatment centre for eating disorders, which aims to save the NHS thousands of pounds by ending the “revolving door” of repeated hospital treatments, and relapses, has opened in Wimbledon.

The residential service, based at Arthur House, close to Wimbledon Park, will provide treatment for over-18s with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder (BED), or mixed eating disorder symptoms, staffed by a team of experts led by a specialist consultant.

The Priory Group has invested more than £1 million in the service. Individuals who may benefit include those looking for extended support after hospital treatment, and those who may not meet NHS criteria for inpatient treatment but would nevertheless benefit from residential treatment.

Therapy is provided through a mixture of group work and one-to-one sessions. The residential service, which is fully CQC-registered, will initially take private clients, with a view to being able to accept those who are NHS-funded, via Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), in future, where appropriate.

Opening the new service, Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon and Minister for Health, said: “It’s important to take the opportunity to highlight the work that is being done to help improve support for those with eating disorders, so I welcome the opening of Arthur House for those stepping down from an intensive hospital stay, or looking to address eating disorders at an early stage.

“A common issue among patients is relapse, and services like Arthur House have an important role to play both in ensuring recovery is sustained, and helping patients avoid repeated hospital stays. It was very interesting to meet the team, discuss the therapies and treatment on offer, and to understand how the service will support individuals, helping them make links with the local community and turning their hopes for a healthy future into reality.”

The service comes as The Guardian recently reported a rise in NHS hospital admissions for eating disorders, with figures up to an eight-year-high.

Some studies put the figure of those suffering from eating disorders as high as 1.25m people, but the NHS has no reliable data on this.

Relapse after treatment for conditions such as anorexia nervosa is a significant clinical problem. One study suggests as many as 41% of women treated for the eating disorder experience relapse after being discharged from the hospital, with doctors testifying to the growing evidence that social media and the selfie culture have in maintaining disorders.

They have also questioned “dangerous” apps that allow users to edit photographs to make the subject look thinner instantly.

Trevor Torrington, Priory Group CEO, said: “We are delighted to be opening Arthur House which builds on Priory’s strong record of delivering high-quality eating disorder services with a high rate of successful outcomes. The consultant-led team of staff at Arthur House has extensive expertise. We were delighted to welcome the minister and show him how Arthur House offers an innovative alternative to hospital and can help prevent the cycle of relapse - which can be a common feature among sufferers of eating disorders – enabling clients to sustain a lasting recovery.”

Service director at Arthur House, Steve Clarke, said:  “Arthur House prepares individuals for everyday life by recreating challenges in a safe environment. This is a vital missing link within current UK treatment.

“There is increasing evidence from international clinics and specialist services that this ‘bridging’ approach plays a huge role in helping individuals with eating disorders manage their recovery in the long-term by preparing them for situations they may encounter. This could take anything from two months to longer, gradually progressing to day care and less frequent sessions with our expert therapists.

“But, whilst they are under our care, we – and their families – can feel reassured we are giving them the very best guidance for ‘stepping down’ from treatment in a safe and supportive environment, whilst preventing them from ‘stepping back’ into negative behaviours.”

He said hospital treatment would help people on the road to recovery, “but it’s a long road and I feel strongly that patients – some of whom will still be feeling fragile and vulnerable – need this additional rehabilitation support”.

Studies have suggested that “exposure and response prevention (ERP)” in particular plays an important role in the ongoing recovery from an eating disorder and in the avoidance of relapse – but until now, access to such programmes in the UK, especially residential, has been extremely limited. Arthur House offers it.

Steve adds: “There are many daycare facilities opening in the UK, and whilst they do offer important services, it is important to remember a vital aspect of eating disorders is the destructive – or compensatory – behaviour of the sufferer that often takes place outside of daycare, for example purging once they go home at night. At Arthur House, individuals will be kept safe day, and importantly, at night.”

In addition to ‘exposure’ therapy, there is a range of psychological therapies at Arthur House such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and CRT (Cognitive Remediation Therapy) which focus on the way the brain processes information about food and body.

Steve adds; “Working closely with our clients during this time of extended care, and assisting them during the transition home and hopefully back to work and everyday life, is incredibly satisfying for our team. It is something we all feel very proud of.

“Our overall goal is to provide a safe, space, surrounded by expert nutritional, dietetic and psychological support, which can be seen as a positive alternative to hospital.”

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