The health innovation networks, including Health Innovation KSS, are supporting mental health teams across England to speed up diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders in young people aged 16 to 25 through FREED.

What is FREED?
FREED (First episode Rapid Early intervention for Eating Disorders), a model developed by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London. This is an evidence-based, specialist care package for 16 to 25-year-olds with a first episode eating disorder of less than three years’ duration. Broadly based on the early intervention model for psychosis, it overcomes barriers to early treatment and recovery and provides highly coordinated early care, with a central focus on reducing the duration of an untreated eating disorder.

What are the outcomes we aimed to achieve?

  • Earlier intervention and treatment of eating disorders in young people
  • Reduction in the length of time young people have untreated eating disorders
  • Reduction in waiting times, day/in-patient admissions and bed days
  • Cost savings through reduced use of healthcare services, in particular reduced need for day/in-patient admissions.

FREED inequalities toolkit 
Health Innovation KSS has recently launched the FREED Inequalities Toolkit in partnership with Unity Insights. The toolkit is a new resource to help healthcare professionals working in eating disorders to measure and understand inequalities in eating disorders through the FREED programme. You can download the toolkit here.

Health inequalities are said to exist when individuals with a social disadvantage have less access to effective treatment and relevant support, leading them to experience poor treatment and quality of care. The FREED Inequalities Toolkit aims to help mental health teams to better understand the demographics and subsequent needs of young people living with an eating disorder in their area. Identifying areas where health inequalities are more prominent can lead to improvements in the quality of care received and in the service delivery.

The toolkit will help professionals delivering the FREED programme to better understand:

  • How to effectively measure inequalities and the steps to sustain and embed a ‘health inequalities focus’ to support better care
  • How to measure inequalities (including demographic and process and outcome metrics)
  • Who are the key stakeholders to engage with to help ensure the measurement of relevant data

To find out more, please contact Becca Randell, Implementation Lead.

To learn more about the outcomes of the FREED programme across the South East and Dorset, check out this Flashcard.

In July 2022 the NELFT’s Enhanced Freed Service was launched. For more information, see the press release on our website.

Peer support workers in eating disorder services

The South East health innovation networks (Wessex, Oxford and Kent Surrey Sussex) have recently undertaken research to explore the potential role of peer support in the management of eating disorders.

Three surveys (one staff survey and two patient surveys) of over 100 respondents in our regions have gathered the views and experiences of service users, carers and NHS employees towards peer support.

Peer support workers (PSW) are people who are integrated into the care team to help support mental health service users and their families. PSW often have experienced the particular conditions themselves and therefore are able to empathise and offer a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by service users. While peer support is not currently part of the early intervention pathway, it is seen as having the potential to work well within an eating disorder service.

Key findings

Our surveys found that:

  • 50% of child and adolescent mental health services users (CAMHS), 81% of adult eating disorder service users and 100% of carers say they think having a peer support worker is a good idea;
  • Service users and carers say that support from a peer support worker would be most useful for: helping with practical activities like budgeting and organisation, talking about medication and treatment options, liaising with education and using positive, non-medical language;
  • Most respondents in the staff survey say they think that peer support will be effective within eating disorders;
  • 100% of staff with peer support work experience and 96% without experience express potential interest in implementing/ learning about the role of peer support workers in the eating disorder pathway.

Download the full survey objectives, methodology and analysis here.


Peer Support in Eating Disorders Services Webinar – watch now 

We held our final event for the national FREED programme (early intervention in eating disorders) in March 2023,  in collaboration with Health Innovation Wessex and Health Innovation Oxford & Thames Valley.

Throughout the duration of the national programme, we have worked closely across the South East to develop an established and engaged Community of Practice, with representation from eating disorder services across the region.

The webinar offered an opportunity to hear from peer support workers sharing their lived experiences and some of the practical support available. There were a range of presentation topics, including: organisational readiness and framework for implementation, training and supervision, B-EAT Peer Support Worker (PSW) training pilot and services sharing experience of existing implementation. The webinar also offered an opportunity to make connections to continue conversations that might enable the adoption of new innovation and approaches to delivering early intervention in eating disorders across the South East.

Catch up on the event on YouTube