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The scales have been dumped: It’s time to accept that the NHS has refocused its diagnosis of disordered eating

Today marks my last day as Trustee for Online Communications for First Steps ED, the East Midlands’ only – and expanding – eating disorders charity. My resignation becomes effective at the end of tomorrow’s AGM. I am proud of what I’ve achieved there since April 2007: Traffic to the website has increased by 9,000%; our Facebook reach has increased by 6,500% and our Twitter, by 2,300%.

I set in motion an application for Google Grants, which sees the charity get around £50k/month in free Google AdWords. I took charge for online GDPR implementation and met the deadline. I saved the charity £8,000/year by leading the charge on contracting a WordPress developer (I couldn’t do this myself as a trustee) to lift the skin from our old supplier and switch to a cheaper web host.

I advised in board meetings what I could and how to promote things. I won some fights, and lost others. That’s what happens in a board environment. What I always knew about the overwhelming majority of people around me were that they had the charity’s best interests at heart. And our staff: I’ve never met such a dedicated team, who are mostly experts by experience, a sensitive but fun-loving bunch, and frankly I will miss them.

The main part of this blog post is the campaign to “Dump the Scales”, which saw a petition being delivered to 10 Downing Street. It was frankly absurd that the NICE guidelines for disordered eating focused solely on that of BMI for a long time, but the guidelines were updated in May 2017. Here they are.

As you will read, BMI and the SCOFF have been removed largely out of the picture, and clinicians are expected to understand and focus on the wider picture.

The scales, as it were, have been dumped.

I would like the eating disorders community now to switch the focus from flogging a dead horse and complaining about the NHS and its treatment of sufferers, to instead trying to get involved and fix things.

As a charity, First Steps ED is open as a first point of contact without the need for a diagnosis. Imagine if all the energy that goes into running several petition campaigns that all mean the same thing would go into setting up other organisations in the areas that we can’t get to yet. There would be a revolution in the way that we can help prevent people dying from the psychiatric illnesses that have the highest death rate of any.

My best friend, Will, and his experience of anorexia and bulimia led me to accept the trusteeship of First Steps ED. Unfortunately, due to work, care and study commitments, I cannot continue to be a trustee. I can and will, however, do all I can to continue to support the charity.

We need to shift the focus away from complaining and to action on the ground. Doing so is the only way to preventing even more tragic deaths.

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