March 26, 2008


THE FIRST beds for children and adolescents suffering from eating disorders outside Dublin will be opened in Cork this year.

Eight interim beds will be available at St Stephen's Hospital in Glanmire later this year and a new specialist unit is due to open in Blackrock late next year. There are currently only three designated specialist beds for the treatment of eating disorders in the public mental health services nationally, located at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin. It is estimated that up to 200,000 people in the Republic have an eating disorder.

In addition, there are two eight-bed units in the private sector located at St Patrick's Hospital, Dublin and St John of Gods, Dublin, where the HSE refers children, adolescents and adults with eating disorders when appropriate.

Dave Drohan, local health manager with the HSE South, said treatment for adults with eating disorders in the region is normally dealt with by their primary care services.

"However, should additional treatment be required, a referral is made to the mental health services. An assessment is carried out and inpatient or outpatient treatment is provided as appropriate. Where further specialist treatment is required, a number of cases are referred to specialist services," he said.

According to Mr Drohan, assessment and therapeutic intervention was offered to children and adolescents who presented with an eating disorder. "These cases are prioritised by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service [ CAMHS] multidisciplinary teams.

"After assessment, a treatment plan is put in place for the young person, and, in conjunction with this, close interaction with the family and other siblings is a very important element of the management and treatment of the young person. "Sometimes a paediatric review and admission to a paediatric ward is necessary. Access to paediatric wards across the region is available to CAMHS teams."

Mr Drohan pointed out that the future direction and delivery of all aspects of the mental health services, including services for persons with eating disorders, were considered by the expert group on mental health policy. The group's report, entitled A Vision for Change: Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, published in 2006, identified major gaps in the provision of services for people with eating disorders.

The report contained many recommendations for change, including the provision of four new specialist eating disorder teams for adults, one in each of the HSE administrative areas. It also recommended that each HSE area should have an eating disorder six bed sub-unit.

Access to beds for children and adolescents from the HSE South region with an eating disorder will be provided in a 20-bedpsychiatric unit, which is being developed at Bessboro in Cork city at a cost of €9.14 million. This unit is not due to open until late next year but, as an interim measure, eight beds for the HSE South will be opened at St Stephen's Hospital in Glanmire in late 2008.

© 2008 The Irish Times