NHS Mental Health Patients in Private Hospitals

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Thursday 28th April 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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Can I begin by—if my information is correct—wishing the noble Lord a happy birthday? If it is not his birthday, I have made a fool of myself. I am sure all the House joins me.

Wherever there is a tragedy, we have to learn the lessons. We spoke about this during the Bill, for example with HSSIB and making sure we have a safe space to understand what went wrong and ensure it does not happen again. We have to make sure that, as we move towards different models of care for people suffering from mental health conditions, it is appropriate to their condition. Not all mental health conditions are the same. Some will need in-patient provision and others will need care in the community, but we should make sure they are actually supported in the community.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, I declare an interest in that I have a daughter currently in a private eating disorder facility out-of-area, which the NHS is paying for—for which I am extremely grateful. Given the increasing numbers of people suffering from eating disorders, both children and young people and adults, what hope can the Minister give families like mine that in future their young people and family members will not be sent far away, when we want to see them? They might be in hospital for four, six or nine months at a time. What hope can the Minister give people that—yes, there are brilliant community services for eating disorders and we need more of them—we will open up more beds in local areas to help families and sufferers of these appalling diseases?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for sharing her very personal story. It is important that we understand it is more than stats and figures, which are provided to me by the department. In the community, we understand it is important to make sure that provision is as close to the patient and family as possible. We have to remember that care is not just for the patient; it impacts friends, family and others. We are looking at ways to ensure that care is delivered close to families and those suffering from these conditions.

Eating Disorders

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Tuesday 1st March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Asked by
Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Ignoring the alarms: How NHS eating disorder services are failing patients, published on 6 December 2017, what steps they are taking to ensure that eating disorders are taught appropriately in medical schools.

Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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My Lords, following the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s report regarding the tragic death of Averil Hart, the Department of Health and Social Care has been engaging with partners through a delivery group led by NHS England and NHS Improvement to continue to address the recommendations. This includes work with Health Education England to improve training for GPs and with the General Medical Council to ensure that eating disorders are included among outcome measures for newly qualified clinicians.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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I thank the Minister for his reply. GPs receive on average less than two hours’ training for eating disorders. Inadequate training was identified by the PHSO report in 2017, as he says, and by numerous coroners’ reports since then, including the latest Prevention of Future Deaths report in Manchester in December following the tragic death of Nichola Lomax. What specifically is the Minister doing to hold the GMC, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Health Education England, NHS England and NHS Improvement to account for their responsibility to ensure that trainee doctors graduate with the skills and the knowledge to be able to identify, safely manage and refer patients with eating disorders?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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The noble Baroness raises a very important point about how we identify the issues and tackle them. It is two-pronged: one way is about the amount of investment into mental health services, including tackling disorders, and the other is training. NHS England and NHS Improvement have been working with Health Education England and other partners to look at training courses that will increase the capacity of the existing workforce to provide evidence-based treatment to more people. We are also working with the GMC and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges as well as Beat representatives. In addition, Health Education England is looking to increase the exposure of doctors to eating disorders. The GMC’s Outcomes for Graduates states that

“Newly qualified doctors must explain and illustrate”


their understanding of

“the principles for the identification, safe management and referral of patients with mental health conditions”,

including eating disorders.

Eating Disorders

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Monday 17th January 2022

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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First, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness for all the work she has done in this area, making sure that we are all aware of this issue and keeping it on the agenda. In answer to her specific question, the department has invested nearly £110 million in mental health research, including research on eating disorders through the NIHR, as she mentioned. This includes the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative and a systemic review led by the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre. UKRI has announced funding for a £3.8 million study on eating disorders to inform prevention and early prevention in young people. This research is being led by King’s College London and the University of Edinburgh.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, the latest NHS data shows a continuing increase in the number of people being hospitalised for eating disorders, mainly in the 18 to 39 age group, yet there is still no adult waiting time standard for people with eating disorders. This is despite knowing that access to quality community care can reduce the number of hospitalisations and unnecessary deaths. When are this Government going to introduce an adult waiting time standard for people accessing treatment for serious eating disorders?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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As noble Lords can imagine, because of the pandemic, sadly, waiting times have gone up, but we are making sure that we are doing as much as we can to address that. Longer term, we are focusing on prevention, not only cure. We are also making sure that we are able to understand the various forms of eating disorder better. It is very simple to lump them all together, but there are different elements and you can distinguish between them. Then we will, I hope, be able to tackle that as much as possible.

Calorie Labelling (Out of Home Sector) (England) Regulations 2021

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Thursday 22nd July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, who has done so much in his own way to bring together those of us who speak with the eating disorder community and those who represent those with obesity. I wish the Government would take on his approach of encouraging yet more joint dialogue.

I support the Government’s ambition to make the nation healthier, but these regulations are to be regretted and I therefore wholeheartedly support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. At best, there is weak evidence for their efficacy and there is insufficient attention paid to the impacts on extremely vulnerable people, and the growing number of people suffering from eating disorders.

First, the weak evidence. The Explanatory Memorandum makes it clear that the approach is based on the 2018 Cochrane review, which concluded:

“Findings from a small body of low-quality evidence suggest that … energy information on menus may reduce energy purchased in restaurants.”


It went on to recommend the need for:

“Additional high-quality research in real-world settings”.


So I ask the Minister: did the Government consider trialling this approach first?

Secondly, these regulations will create another place of fear for a vulnerable community of eating disorder sufferers, having the potential to impact on their often-fragile recoveries and shattering the chance of moments of connection with families and friends.

I want to explain what I mean by a “place of fear”. When our daughter, Rose, was in the depths of her eating disorder and was hospitalised, part of her specialist treatment over many months involved taking the eating-disorder patients into cafés and other eating venues to learn how to manage these frightening situations. For those suffering from an eating disorder, the stress of a restaurant is huge: fear of other people watching you eat, fear of people eating less than you and fear of not having safe foods on the menu. It means obsessing about it the day before and restricting food intake beforehand. Going is a known risk, but one that is taken to try to have a moment of joy and celebration, given that food is a way to strengthen all those positive social bonds of connection with family and friends.

Those in recovery—and to be clear, recovery is not a linear process for sufferers; many get dragged back down time and again—will be at greater risk once this measure is introduced. Seeing calories on a menu will be one more way, once they are seated at the table, of stacking the cards against them as they battle the demons in their head telling them exactly what they are allowed to eat. In short, it turns what might have been a manageable situation—a moment of all too brief happiness for a family eating out—into one that descends into a paralysing stand-off.

There is no logic in eating disorders, only triggers to letting the illness claim control of your loved one. Victoria, another eating disorder sufferer, described it to me like this:

“During my recovery, I found calorie labelling highly triggering as it held me back from rebuilding my relationship with food and my understanding of how to feed myself in a healthy way without being controlled by numbers ... Eating disorder recovery is very fragile and I am daunted by the prospect that calorie counts will be harder now to avoid”.


This is the reality of these regulations for eating disorder sufferers.

The Explanatory Memorandum refers to the concession that menus without calories will be permitted—but, when I asked about the guidance that businesses were being offered, the department confirmed that there will be no obligation to produce such menus. So there is no guarantee of one being available and no sanction if the restaurant just turns around and says no. Why does the guidance for businesses not at least strongly recommend that such menus are available on request?

So the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, is right. We must review the impacts of this legislation within 12 months of its introduction, including assessing fully the impacts on eating disorder sufferers. We all want to encourage more healthy eating, but interventions should be evidenced-based and consider the implications for other vulnerable communities.

Eating Disorder Services: Referrals

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Monday 17th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend puts it extremely well. Young people have been under huge pressure during the pandemic. It is a huge tribute to the young people of Britain that they have borne it so well. I do not have to hand the statistics on waiting lists that she asked for, but I would be glad to write to her with the details. We are recruiting right across the NHS at the moment; it has been an extremely successful recruitment round, and those kinds of recruits will go to services such as those dealing with eating disorders.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD) [V]
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My Lords, to return to calorie labelling on menus in restaurants, as raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, there is limited evidence for its efficacy in reducing levels of obesity, but there is clear evidence from the Royal College of Psychiatrists eating disorders faculty—and anecdotal evidence from my daughter and others—that it can be responsible for triggering those with eating disorders. Can the Minister respond to what the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, asked for and confirm that, should the Government introduce this labelling on menus, they will review its impacts not just on reducing levels of obesity but on those suffering from eating disorders?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, the eating habits of the nation have changed considerably in recent years. The amount of food that people eat that has been prepared by others has risen dramatically, and many people have no idea what is in the food they are eating. That is why we have moved to bring in calorie labelling on food that is delivered and in restaurants. I am acutely aware of the concerns of the noble Baronesses, Lady Parminter and Lady Bull. We are committed to engaging with eating disorder charities, Beat and other key stakeholders, and to listening very carefully to their concerns on this.

Body Mass Index

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Thursday 22nd April 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for his passionate introduction to this debate.

I applaud the Women and Equalities Committee’s work highlighting the impacts of the use of BMI on eating disorders and people’s mental health by disrupting their body image. Eating disorders are not niche. The 2019 NHS health survey found that

“16% of adults … screened positive for a possible eating disorder”.

Covid has increased the pressure on eating disorder services hugely, with referrals across the country increasing by 75% on average.

There is still an overreliance on BMI by GPs when diagnosing eating disorders to determine who is unwell enough to access treatment. Hope Virgo’s “Dump the Scales” campaign has literally hundreds of people, mainly young women, sharing how damaging it was to be told that they were not thin enough for treatment. It drives them deeper into this pernicious illness, which I know about from our family’s experience. Indeed, the evidence shows that early intervention is far better and offers the best hope of recovery.

The Government and the NICE guidelines are clear: BMI should not be used on its own as an arbiter of whether to offer treatment, yet GPs are still doing this. Why? First, there is inadequate training for GPs and other health professionals about eating disorders. The issue was identified by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in his report on eating disorder services in 2017, in the follow-up report by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in 2019, and in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough coroner’s prevention of future deaths report last month, to which the Secretary of State has to respond formally by next Wednesday. Will the Government now lead a strategy to improve eating disorder education in the medical profession, including embedding it in the curriculum? For GPs already in surgeries, a screening tool should be produced to ensure that, instead of relying on BMI, they ask the right questions of patients, with clear guidance on the language to use.

Secondly, GPs are using BMI to ration access to services as demand hugely outstrips supply. I welcome the Government’s recent investments in mental health funding, but it is mainly for children and young people, and only one in six eating disorder patients is under 18. Given the rise in demand, significantly exacerbated by Covid, without ring-fenced funding BMI will continue to be used to limit access to eating-disorder services, resulting in further unnecessary deaths.

Health: Eating Disorders

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Tuesday 19th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Asked by
Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to The Health Survey for England 2019, published on 15 December 2020, and the finding that 19 per cent of women aged 16 and over screened positive for a possible eating disorder, what steps they are taking to support those with eating disorders.

Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con)
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My Lords, eating disorders are serious, life-threatening conditions, and we are committed to ensuring that people have access to the right support when they need it. We are growing our investment in community healthcare for adults year on year—almost £1 billion extra by 2023—with specific funding to transform adult eating disorder care and, for young people aged 16 to 25, to accelerate provision beyond existing growth and to transform plans.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD) [V]
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The NHS health survey suggests that the prevalence of eating disorders is significantly higher than previously assumed, so will the Government commission a national, population-based study to accurately identify the number of people with eating disorders, as the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee recommended, to inform research and service-level provision?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness is right: the statistics on eating disorders are shocking. The Mental Health of Children and Young People in England Survey identified 0.4% of 5 to 19-year-olds and 1.6% of girls aged 17 to 19. The NHS Digital Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey showed 6.4% of adults displaying signs of an eating disorder. There is the survey by Beat, and I could go on. I do not think it is an issue of surveys; we have to address the underlying statistics with measures that make a difference.

Mental Health Services: Young People

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Thursday 24th September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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We are deeply concerned about suicide; any suicide is too many. The noble Lord will be aware that the increased numbers recently are in part due to the recategorisation of suicide among the coroners’ courts. Nonetheless, we take this issue very seriously. The programme to help people identify those who show the markers of suicidal thinking has provided a very important impact on this issue. We are deeply concerned about Covid, and we continue to support suicide charities.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD) [V]
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My Lords, calls to the eating disorder charity Beat’s helpline nearly doubled during lockdown, and at the same time fewer children and young people started treatment for eating disorders compared to the previous year. What are the Government doing to ensure sufficient funding for children and young people’s eating disorder services so that young people can access the help they need?

Anti-obesity Strategies

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Monday 14th September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I completely endorse my noble friend’s views. When it comes to mental health challenges and connections between obesity and mental health, the resources need to be put in place and the sensitivity she speaks of applied. I return to my earlier comments: 87% of the country is involved in this. Not all have mental health issues; some simply need to take responsibility for their weight.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD) [V]
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The National Audit Office’s report last week on tackling obesity confirmed that there is limited evidence that calorie labelling in restaurants reduces total calories consumed. How will the success or otherwise of the Government’s proposed calorie labelling in restaurants be evaluated? Will it take into account the potential harm caused, given that the ability to track calories can be highly triggering for those with or vulnerable to developing an eating disorder?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, we are tracking the success of this obesity strategy, although it should be understood that this is generations in the making and may well take a while to work through. I come back to my previous comments: calorie labelling is a very important element of people’s education about the content of their food and often their drinks, including alcoholic drinks. We support that measure as an important part of our strategy.

Eating Disorders: Provision of Care

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Tuesday 4th February 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

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Asked by
Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to improve the care offered to sufferers of eating disorders.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall) (Lab)
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My Lords, since this business is time limited, I draw noble Lords’ attention to the fact that the clocks that normally flash are not doing so, so we have reverted back to the older model which will require noble Lords taking part in the debate to exercise the customary discipline in recognising when their time is up.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, I declare an interest: one of my daughters suffers from anorexia. We have experienced NHS eating disorder services both for children and young people and for adults in the community, and specialist in-patient care, and it is clear to me that while advances have been made, insufficient progress has been made to date in improving the care for people suffering from these life-threatening diseases. Noble Lords should be in no doubt that they are serious mental illnesses. They can cripple lives physically, emotionally, socially and can ultimately take them. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and, like cancer, if eating disorders are not caught early, they are much harder to treat.

There are waiting-time targets for children and young people to access eating disorder services, but none for adults. The Royal College of Psychiatrists found that people can wait up to 41 months for treatment, with adults waiting up to 30% longer than those under 18 years of age. Those delays to get treatment have devastating and life-threatening results, like the death of Averil Hart aged just 19 from anorexia. Her death and those of two other young women were investigated by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in 2017 and followed up by the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in 2019. Both those inquiries found that it was time to ensure that young people and children’s services were in parity with those provided for adults. I am delighted that the Government are now piloting a waiting time for adults to receive eating disorder services. But when those eight pilots end next year, there is no ring-fenced money in the budget for adult mental health up until 2024 to roll out a national scheme for adults for a waiting time standard. Given that it is now three years since the first inquiry said that this was a matter to be treated with urgency, will the Minister say when the Government think it will be possible to roll out a national waiting time standard for adults with eating disorders?

It is not just about having access to early treatment. It also about ensuring that when people go to their GP there are medics who know how to identify, manage and safely refer those patients. Research in 2018 by Dr Agnes Ayton showed that on average there is less than two hours of medical training on eating disorders, with one in five medical schools offering no training whatever. Ellen Macpherson, a final-year medical student in Manchester, says:

“I’ve had around 10 hours of teaching on schizophrenia, which affects one-fifth of the numbers affected by an eating disorder and has half the mortality rate.”


A survey of medical schools by the General Medical Council echoed Dr Ayton’s research. It concluded that doctors are not sufficiently prepared to manage patients with eating disorders. Recent initiatives by the GMC are welcome, but progress is painfully slow. When she responds, will the Minister tell us how the Government are ensuring that the GMC, medical schools and the royal colleges are undertaking their responsibility to ensure that medical professionals are teaching people properly about these life-threatening diseases?

There is also a need for more research. There are excellent examples of clinic-based treatment here in the UK. When I recently visited the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust I heard about FREED—first episode and rapid early intervention for eating disorders—and I was told about how early intervention and evidence-based treatments can work, but we still do not have a full understanding of, or know how best to treat, eating disorders.

Research levels for mental health are woefully low. Analysis from the charity MQ recently identified that just 96p per person affected is spent on eating disorder research, whereas a physical health condition which affects twice the number of people receives £228 per person affected. When will the Government review the level of funding given to mental health research? Only by looking at funding as well as services will we deliver the parity of esteem for mental health enshrined in legislation by the coalition Government, and the Government have made welcome signs that they are still committed to that.

Recruiting and retaining staff is also a real challenge, given the pressures, especially in adult services. The Royal College of Psychiatrists survey showed that vacancy rates for psychiatrists have more than doubled in the past six years and eating disorder services are among the most seriously affected services. In England, there are only 81 psychiatric posts in eating disorder services, and last year 12 of them were vacant. This directly impacts on the time people wait for treatment. While NHS England and NHS Improvement have been tasked with ensuring that local plans are drawn up to meet staffing requirements for mental health, they will not be able to deliver them unless some of the underlying reasons causing those shortfalls are addressed. This may be an issue that the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, will touch on, so I shall not say much more: only two things. First, increasing the pipeline of medics by creating more psychiatric foundation training places with direct experience of eating disorders would help and, secondly, better resourcing eating disorder services would allow workloads to be managed better and stop people leaving as they are overworked and carrying risks that are too high.

Those risks are exacerbated by dangerously low in-patient capacity. As some Members of the House will know, 19,000 people needed hospitalisation in England last year for eating disorders. That figure has doubled in 10 years but no extra beds have been provided. There are only 649 beds in England. That means that patients with BMIs of under 12 are sent to units while they wait for hospital beds to become available and that patients, who are often children, are sent hundreds of miles away from their families for months on end. When our daughter needed specialist in-patient care there were no beds available anywhere in the country. She was kept alive by the local hospital for a month until a bed became available 144 miles away. She received excellent care, for which I am truly grateful, but I am in no doubt that the distances that people have to suffer at these very difficult times often make it an unbearable situation.

What makes it, frankly, shocking is that commissioning decisions about how many beds and services we have are being made without the NHS having even basic data on the number of people suffering from eating disorders in the UK. You cannot manage what you do not measure. I call on the Government to institute a review of eating disorder services, informed by accurate prevalence data.

While there is much more to do to improve the lives of sufferers of these diseases, there is much to be thankful for: the staff who care and battle on despite the workforce shortages and resource limitations; voluntary organisations, such as Beat and TasteLife; the families and carers who may rage in private but refuse to give up on their loved ones; campaigners, such as Hope Virgo and others, who use their lived experiences to offer much-needed hope of a better tomorrow; and—if I may say so—the Minister, whose willingness to listen is genuinely appreciated.

With the help of this Government, we can take the actions necessary to improve the lives of people suffering from these dreadfully cruel diseases. They deserve nothing less.