Page last updated at 08:42 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

Eating disorders treatment plea

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Emily's letter asks for a better service for eating disorder patients

A mother spent 18,000 to send her anorexic daughter for treatment in South Africa after she said there was a lack of help on the NHS in Wales.

Janet Beach, from Tonyrefail, Rhondda Cynon Taf, paid for her daughter Emily, 21, who has had anorexia for six years to get help.

Bethan Jenkins AM said it was "not acceptable" that people with eating disorders had to go abroad for help.

The assembly government has announced money for more community services.

Mrs Beach's daughter Emily had written a letter directly to the health authorities in which she pleaded for help.

In it she said: "I knew from the past six years with my constant relapses and lack of professional help that unless I get intense treatment now, I will be in the same predicament in another six years, or dead."

Her mother used money from her savings to pay for Emily to have residential care in South Africa.

She told BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye programme: "To see her going through the gates at Heathrow airport and travelling all that way on her own and knowing what she was going to have to do when she got there.

She lost her hair, she had osteoporosis, her eyesight was affected - just all of her God love her, she was just in a terrible state
Sian Dalton on her daughter Lisa

"Fortunately we had that money that we could use - a lot of people won't have that."

Emily is expected to return from South Africa on Saturday. Mrs Beach said she is "excited" about her return, but she is still concerned about the lack of specialist services to treat eating disorders in Wales.

She said there are no specialist dieticians locally and they will have to pay 90 an hour to see one privately.

Sian Dalton from Bridgend also criticised the lack of specialist services in Wales.

Her daughter Lisa died in November. She had suffered from anorexia from the age of 10.

"She lost her hair, she had osteoporosis, her eyesight was affected - just all of her God love her, she was just in a terrible state," she said.

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Sian Dalton said her daughter was given long waiting times for help

Mrs Dalton says there were not sufficient services to support her daughter.

"From July 2007 to the 21st Dec 2007 my daughter was seen 20 times plus by medical staff and I was telling them that Lisa's weight was dropping at an alarming rate - eating two plums a day, frogmarching four or five miles and still she was at home in this environment and nothing was done and by which time she dropped nearly five stone in weight," she said.

Dr Dee Dawson, medical director at the Rhodes Farm clinic, in north London, which helps children with anorexia and bulimia, said she did not think eating disorders were taken seriously in Wales.

"I think the NHS is well aware that the specialised units where you have dieticians, therapists, doctors and nurses coming together and working as a team, you certainly get the best results," she said.

"Lisa Dalton could not even find a therapist and she desperately needed someone to talk to.

"I don't really know why Wales doesn't organise anything. One of my consultants who worked in Rhodes Farm for four years left about three years ago to work in Swansea. So you have an eating disorders expert there who is not even being used."

South Wales West AM, Bethan Jenkins, who founded the assembly's cross party group on eating disorders, said: "I think this is an issue that's been on the backburner for far too long.

"We can't be waiting around even more for people to die and to have to go to other countries for treatment."

Health Minister Edwina Hart has said she wants more services available in the community - and has allocated 1m a year to pay for these services.

She also plans to introduce new guidance for the health service to intervene earlier when eating disorders are diagnosed.

A spokesman for the assembly government said there was a 6.5m fund for school based counselling as well as plans to improve the mental health services for young people.

He said purpose built units would be built at Bridgend and Abergele.

"The Health Minister, Edwina Hart, is determined to enhance the levels of community-based provision in Wales," he added.

"In October 2008, the minister announced additional funding of 0.5 m in 09/10 with 1m recurrent thereafter.

"This funding will enable earlier treatment of those suffering from eating disorders so their needs can be met as quickly as possible and lower the risk of their condition worsening to such a state where they require inpatient care."

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