A FORMER anorexia sufferer has said the closure of an award-winning eating disorder unit in the region could cost lives.
Sunderland University graduate Rachel Cowey said the decision to close the Richardson Eating Disorder Service (Reds) at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary in the autumn could have fatal consequences.
The 27-year-old (pictured), who studied magazine journalism at the university, received outpatient treatment for anorexia from the age to 18 to 22, when she was discharged.
She said its closure will have a “massive impact” on the North East, and has campaigned against the decision with the group NEEDAG (North East Eating Disorder Action Group) since 2011.
“People are already refusing treatment because they are being asked to go to other places for it, so they are already putting themselves at risk,” she said.
“Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of mental health disorders so it could have terrible consequences.”
Patients in Newcastle have been sent to units in Sheffield, Leeds, Darlington, Norwich and even Glasgow, instead remaining in the city for treatment.
The trust is working with NHS England to open a new eating disorder intensive day service in the city, but there will be no inpatient beds.
The nearest adult inpatient facility is based 40 miles away in Darlington.
NEEDAG urged health chiefs to provide inpatient care in Tyneside as there are no beds in use at the Richardson unit, despite there being 10 beds available.
The campaigners have reacted angrily to the impending closure of the unit.
Staff working at the Richardson Unit are undergoing a consultation process over the changes, although Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation trust hopes to transfer all employees to the new service.