SILENT TREATMENT: Are people with eating disorders being failed by the public health system?
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The HSE is currently implementing a national clinical programme for eating disorders but there have been significant issues with its roll-out, with just a small fraction of money allocated to improve supports and treatment actually spent on this since 2018.

This investigation was part-funded through crowdfunding (€1,065 of the proposed €1,840). However, we were contacted by so many people in distress at the chaotic state of eating disorder services since launching this proposed project, we went ahead with significant support from our investigative fund.

In a statement to Noteworthy, a HSE spokesperson said that “nationally planned developments for eating disorder services in 2020 had to be temporarily paused” and this funding was used to cover other areas of mental health provision.

A key element of this programme is to treat people with eating disorders early before they become sick enough for admission to hospital. To do this, hubs and mini-hubs of specialist teams were to be set up across the country within five years.

Yet, four years into the programme, only three of the 16 promised hubs are operational - one adult hub in Dublin as well as hubs in both Dublin and Cork for children and adolescents. A 2019 HSE mental health service report found that no eating disorder specialist team “was serving its full population” at the end of that year.

Those campaigning for better treatment say that parents living in regions not covered by these teams have reported a wait of up to 18 months for their child to be seen, even in cases classed as urgent. In contrast, in covered areas almost 95% are assessed and 91% begin treatment within eight weeks. This postcode lottery has left some contemplating moving house to access treatment sooner.

This is a growing problem with hospital admissions of young people under 18 years of age for an eating disorder increasing by almost 65% in the space of one year in 2019, with girls and young women making up the vast majority (96%) of patients. Over 70% of admissions for eating disorders were by adults the same year, with women accounting for 84% of these.

So what is delaying the implementation of these services and what is the knock-on impact on people with eating disorders?


Through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and extensive research, we want to investigate the progress of the national clinical programme for eating disorders and what is causing delays in its implementation.

We want to find out the impact that lack of services, particularly in regions without specialist teams, is having on people with eating disorders.

With some experts concerned about the extra challenges the coronavirus pandemic has presented to people with eating disorders, we plan to talk to those affected about how they are coping with the Covid-19 crisis and if sufficient supports are available.

If you want to make a contribution to help this investigation happen, click the 'Fund This Proposal' button. Noteworthy investigations are sourced from and crowdfunded by the public.

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34 Backers raised €1065 of €1065
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