Mental health and patient BMI

An investigation has found that NHS Trusts have been turning away patients with anorexia because they’re not thin enough.

BBC Breakfast asked all 62 mental health Trusts in England and Wales if they used BMI to decide who would qualify for outpatient eating disorder services. One third said they did.

Most trusts said they were used in combination with other measures – such as the speed of weight loss. In Kent and Medway, Derbyshire, Cumbria and Coventry however, BMI was used alone to decide whether a patient should be prioritised for treatment.

Sarah Hodge, from Kent and Medway Partnership Trust eating disorder service, said they would rather not use BMI as a measure at all, but the problem was limited staff and funding.

”You can have much more success when people have a higher BMI, they’re much better able to engage with the therapy. But we just don’t have the resources.”

Prof Tim Kendall, England’s most senior mental health adviser, says weight shouldn’t come into it.

”If you leave an eating disorder until it’s got to the point where, say with anorexia, they’ve lost say a third of their body weight, that has a lot of longer-term consequences which make it very difficult to treat, so it’s wrong in my view to leave this until it’s got very bad.

“To be told you’re not thin enough – it’s almost an incitement to get worse. It’s like someone going to their GP and being told – you drink one bottle of whisky a day right now? Come back when you drink two.”

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