I was turned away by doctors when I needed help for an eating disorder – hospitals need to change

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Friday 20 July 2018 12:49
'I referred myself to the eating disorder specialist team only to be told I wasn’t 'thin enough' – Hope Virgo
'I referred myself to the eating disorder specialist team only to be told I wasn’t 'thin enough' – Hope Virgo

Imagine if you turned up at a hospital with a broken leg, and the doctor did the x ray and said: “It isn’t broken enough, we can’t help.”

There would be an outcry. The hospital would be looked into and the care scrutinised.

Why then, does this so often happen for people with eating disorders? The NICE [National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] clinical guidelines clearly state: “Do not use single measures such as BMI [body mass index] or duration of illness to determine whether to offer treatment for an eating disorder.” But this wasn’t the case for me.

In 2016, after being out of hospital – where I had been diagnosed with anorexia – for eight years, I relapsed. Speaking completely honesty it was absolutely terrifying. I knew exactly what was happening in my brain and I didn’t really know what to do about it. I absolutely hated that that anorexic voice, that relentless voice, was back in my head louder than ever. Beating me up. Pushing me down. I didn’t know what to do and how I would ever shake this voice but one thing I was sure about was that I desperately needed help.

I referred myself to the eating disorder specialist team only to be told I wasn’t “thin enough”. What followed was a month of suicidal thoughts, relentless voices in my head constantly battling over whether I should eat anything. After almost attempting suicide at a train station in June 2016, I realised I would have to sort my brain out with my own support network.

My story isn’t unique. In fact it is a daily occurrence across the country. People being told they are too “overweight” to be an inpatient but too “underweight” to be classed as an outpatient. People with bulimia, a binge eating disorder, being turned away as their weight isn’t under or over. People whose mental states are completely dismissed.

The NICE clinical guidelines clearly state we should be looking at the whole person, not one area in isolation. It is brilliant that the guidance states this. But the reality is this is not happening. Thousands of people are being turned away daily because of their weight. This needs to change.

That is why I launched #Dumpthescales on 9 July, so we can make sure the NICE guidelines are implemented across the whole country, preventing people getting worse, saving lives and making long-term positive change.

Please do join me and the 50,000 other people who have already signed the petition. The time to act is now.

Hope Virgo
Address supplied

Police cuts

After years of writing to The Independent – and my local paper – about the crazy cutbacks to the police force, I can now officially tell Theresa May: “I told you so!”

Robert Boston

The Irish border question shouldn’t be a question at all

The hypocrisy and failure to face the truth regarding the Irish border is appalling. I remember when addressing the thorny question became possible for the peace deal, and the virtual removal of the border became possible.

I recall that at that time, I thought this would never work, before realising that because southern Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK were all members of the EU, it was – hallelujah! – indeed possible, and how grateful we should therefore be for the existence of the EU.

How the DUP – and the Conservative Party – can salve its conscience with its current stance on Brexit, and a non-border, is beyond my wits.

David Hackett

A good laugh

In these days of fake news, novichok poisoning, etc, it was wonderful to sit reading The Independent and burst into laughter. It’s not often we have the chance to do this when reading the news so, thank you Mark Steel! An hilarious, even if sad, article.

F Kempson

Nothing to worry about for flat owners

Regarding your article: “Law Commission offers radical ray of light for leaseholders”

The sale of new-build residential houses as leaseholds with exorbitant ground rents was a complete scandal that took advantage of those working hard to get on or move up the housing ladder. The government’s announcement of a ban on this practice last year was roundly celebrated, but it provided absolutely no comfort for house owners already caught in the leasehold trap. Today’s proposals from the Law Commission do show the victims of the house leasehold trap they have not been forgotten.

However there must be much greater caution in how this is reported, as at present the Law Commission’s main focus is with reference to houses, not flats or apartments. The idea such proposals will become law and apply to flats in the near future is ludicrous – firstly, it would knock millions of pounds off the value of property portfolios – and bank security – but more importantly, the unintended effect for flat owners could be extremely damaging.

Those with short leases may delay extending them in the hope of saving thousands of pounds, thus preventing them from moving. If, as expected, this does not apply to flats in the long run, not only will they have been prevented from moving, but it will likely cost them thousands of pounds more as the price of extending their lease will have increased, given the shorter period.

Simon Gerrard, Martyn Gerrard Estate Agents

Childish MPs

If the MPs at Westminster are anxious to get away for their summer holidays, maybe they could bring in board games and their favourite teddies for these final few days?

Rachel Greenwood

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