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Gemma Oaten says SEED is 'overwhelmed' by eating disorder referrals but still underfunded

todayApril 18, 2024

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Gemma Oaten has spoken about the “heartbreaking” number of eating disorder referrals to her charity and said the government must urgently inject more money into mental health services.

The 39-year-old actress who found fame in Emmerdale is an advocate for eating disorders and has spoken openly about being diagnosed with anorexia when she was 10 years old. Alongside her mum, Marg Oaten, and dad Dennis Oaten, she founded Support and Empathy for People With Eating Disorders (SEED) 24 years ago.

Two rooms at SEED in Princes Quay Shopping Centre have been named in memory of two people who died while suffering from severe eating disorders: Big Brother star Nikki Grahame and Bridlington teenager Chelsea Blue Mooney.

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Chelsea’s dad, Steve Blackwell, told Hull Live there is a “pandemic” of eating disorders but the help needed isn’t out there. He said: “We were told we had to wait eight weeks for a specialist to see Chelsea and in that eight weeks she was taken to hospital and sectioned.

“They are making cuts to services that are already not working properly. It’s hard to see the news and the stories on social media which are nearly a mirror image of what Chelsea went through.



Steve Blackford with daughter Chelsea Blue Mooney
Steve Blackford with daughter Chelsea Blue Mooney

“Early intervention is key with eating disorders, it means a better chance of recovery. There needs to be more services available because at the moment it’s charities like SEED scraping around for funding and they seem to be doing a lot more than the services out there.”

Gemma said eating disorders have the “highest mortality rate” in mental illnesses but waiting lists for psychiatric help are too long. Gemma said GPs are now telling patients to self-refer to SEED, despite the charity not being able to offer clinical care.



SEED charity, in Princes Quay
SEED charity, in Princes Quay

“It breaks my heart that I’m still banging this drum 30 years after I was first admitted to a psychiatric unit. It just shouldn’t be happening in this century.

“The problem is we’ve got very little manpower and funding and what consistently seems to be happening is that in the Lincolnshire and East Riding area there is little support and GPs are actually referring people to us.

“We are drowning in referrals and we are a team of three at the moment. The cases coming to us are more and more complex and they need medical and more in-depth interventions.”

However, a spokesperson from NHS Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB) said: “The ICB commissions a range of services to support people with eating disorders in Hull, the East Riding of Yorkshire, and Northern Lincolnshire.

“This includes two mental health Trusts which provide assessment and comprehensive treatment for children and young people, adhering to national waiting time standards. Neither of the two Trusts has concerns about their waiting lists for this patient group.

“A new Eating Disorder Intensive Treatment Team has recently been established for children and young people in the region. It aims to provide an alternative to inpatient unit admission or reduce the length of stay if a patient is already within a hospital setting.

“Adults with eating disorders who live in the region have access to support through Adult Mental Health services, and specialist support is available for those who need it.

“People who are concerned that they may have an eating disorder should see a GP as soon as possible.” If you want to help SEED, you can make donations using its GivenGain page here.



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