Review finds support for carers positively impacts recovery from eating disorders

Research with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) has explored how support for carers looking after people with eating disorders can contribute to their recovery.

Laura Hannah and Keith Grimwade

Around 1.25 million people in the UK have eating disorders, which can have a devastating impact on everyone at home. Carer support is a key component of most treatment pathways, but research on how this support affects patient outcomes is limited.

Using research databases, the team reviewed 28 studies to understand how carer interventions and therapies affect outcomes for people with these highly complex disorders, proving that small group treatments and peer support were effective. Their published findings have provided more evidence for clinical practice to improve NHS services and care, demonstrating the crucial role carers play in their loved one’s recovery journey.

Clinical researcher and lead author Laura Hannah (left) worked on research with eating disorders services at CPFT before joining the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration East of England, hosted by the Trust.

Laura said: “Interventions to support carers are fundamental to bringing about positive and sustained change in eating disorder patient outcomes. Given the increasing severity, duration, and high risk of relapse amongst patients with eating disorders, it’s crucial to understand how best to integrate long lasting care.

Patients will often move through their treatment pathway encountering different services, and appropriate support from their loved one’s continuous care can transform the patient trajectory. Moving forward, clinicians and commissioners need to incorporate this evidence when delivering care and developing services.”

Co-author Keith Grimwade (right) is lead governor for CPFT and brought his expertise and insight as a carer to the study. He is also the Chair of the NHS East of England Eating Disorders Network helping to improve services in our region, which initiated this research.

Keith said: “This paper is a massive boost for carers. Here is firm evidence that support not only benefits carers but improves outcomes for their loved ones. All parents and carers should receive skills training as soon as their loved one is diagnosed so that a good recovery is as quick as possible.”

The full article ‘A systematic review of the impact of carer interventions on outcomes for patients with eating disorders’ was published in Eating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity and is available online to read here:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40519-021-01338-7

This research was supported by the NHS East of England Eating Disorders Clinical Network, CPFT and the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration East of England, with assistance from library services at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Carers can access free, confidential support and resources from national providers, including BEAT – the UK’s eating disorders charity website: www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk and FEAST www.feast-ed.org.

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough carer support is available through CPFT www.cpft.nhs.uk/information-for-carers- and the eating disorders charity PEDS www.pedsupport.co.uk.  Locally developed support materials are available on the Keep Your Head website: www.keep-your-head.com/adults/MH/eating-disorders/caring-for-someone-with-an-eating-disorder.

To find out more about conducting literature searches and support for systematic reviews at CPFT, staff, volunteers and carers can visit CPFT Library and Knowledge Services online and contact the Trust’s library team.

Pictured above: Laura Hannah (left) Keith Grimwade (right)

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