Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 16:44 UK

Care changes after anorexia death

Charlotte Robinson
Charlotte Robinson died two months after her A-level exams

A new eating disorders service has been set up in Norfolk after a teenager died following delays in her care.

A-level student Charlotte Robinson, 18, of Worstead, rapidly lost weight in 2007 but experienced delays in her referral and treatment.

She was admitted to a specialist clinic in July of that year and died in August, weighing five and half stone.

NHS Norfolk said that from next June, sufferers would receive help more quickly and near to where they live.

Patients needing urgent medical intervention should be seen within four days, it added.

'Ultimate goal'

The vast majority of others, believed to be 90% of all patients referred with eating disorders, should be assessed by a clinician within a minimum of 28 days.

The health trust said once the service was running it hoped to create an "ultimate goal" of access for non-urgent cases within two weeks.

Any changes are positive, but this has not been brought about voluntarily
Chris Robinson

The service has been developed with the help of sufferers and carers.

These include Miss Robinson's parents, Chris and Pauline, who have campaigned for changes in the care and treatment of people with eating disorders following their daughter's death.

Mr Robinson said: "Any changes are positive, but this has not been brought about voluntarily.

"It is after the death of our beautiful, talented daughter, spending our savings on a barrister for an inquest which we pushed for, and lobbying the health trusts and our MP."

At an inquest in Norwich last year, Coroner William Armstrong made recommendations to NHS Norfolk and a mental health trust, and said "inappropriate delays" in Miss Robinson's care had "reduced the likelihood of a recovery" from her illness.

She was diagnosed in April 2007 but waited for several weeks to see a specialist, which the inquest heard was due to staff illness and annual leave.

'Early intervention'

Mark Weston, assistant director for commissioning of mental health services, said NHS Norfolk acknowledged that care for people with eating disorders needed to be improved.

Mr and Mrs Robinson and Susan Ringwood of Beat
Miss Robinson's parents and the charity Beat will monitor the changes

"Making the service available to people within their communities can significantly reduce the need for admissions into clinics or even acute hospitals," he said.

"Early intervention is also the key to helping people with these conditions."

Mr and Mrs Robinson recently received a settlement from Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust, which they donated to the Norwich-based eating disorder charity, Beat.

The charity's chief executive Susan Ringwood said it welcomed the changes and would be monitoring the future developments of treatment in Norfolk.

NHS Norfolk said it was impossible to say how many people suffer from eating disorders in the county, but it suspected there may be as many as 200 new cases of anorexia and bulimia in its area each year.

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