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Challenges of Accessing Appropriate Anorexia Treatment for Adults Highlighted in Northern Ireland


A couple from County Down, Northern Ireland whose adult daughter suffers from anorexia is campaigning for improved services for eating disorders that address the needs of the entire family.

Ivan and Diane Shaw eventually moved their 22 year old daughter Victoria to Bethlem Royal Hospital in London where the family would have access to treatment using the Maudsley Approach. Prior to that, Victoria had been admitted to a psychiatric facility in Belfast where her health had continued to deteriorate.

Specialized services needed

Northern Ireland does not have specialized in-patient hospital services for adults with eating disorders. Although services in the community have reportedly improved since 2005, there is still a need for better local in-patient hospital services for patients that fail to respond to less intensive therapy methods.

Ivan and Diane Shaw have alleged that during Victoria's admission to the psychiatric facility in Belfast, they were made to feel as if her anorexia was "their fault". Complicating matters, the hospital also contributed to an inappropriate setting for someone with severe anorexia. Diane Shaw mentions seeing posters around the walls of the ward encouraging patients to lose weight and exercise.

Family involvement crucial in anorexia treatment

The Maudsley Approach involves active participation from every member of the family, not just the person suffering from the eating disorder.

Ivan and Diane Shaw note that they were fully involved in Victoria's treatment for anorexia at Bethlem Royal Hospital, and most importantly, were provided with the right tools to cope once she was well enough to be discharged. The parents, who earlier this year ran a two-day conference out of their home for families impacted by a member with an eating disorder, have stated that they believe that family involvement is crucial in the successful treatment of anorexia.