Steps to give more help for people with an eating disorder
MORE people with eating disorders can access specialist support after a dedicated unit was expanded.
The Steps unit on the Southmead Hospital site was set up in 1999 but in that time it has grown from four beds on a hospital ward to a separate unit with ten beds for inpatients and other services under the same roof.
With the expansion of the unit, run by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership, there is now less need for people with eating disorders to require treatment on hospital wards.
It also means that people with anorexia or bulimia can visit just one unit for all their support, making them feel more comfortable about the prospect of staying as inpatients than before when the inpatient and outpatient services were based on opposite sides of the site.
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Angie Jakubowska, who leads the service and has worked there since its beginnings in 1999, said: "Patients can see the service from the beginning to the end.
"They only have to come to the same building and see the same staff.
"There are a lot of barriers to seeking help for eating disorders and a lot of fear around it. Any way we can make that less so, the better."
Ms Jakubowska said it would mean that the staff and facilities would be familiar for both patients and families.
She said: "It's a positive shift for us that with the extra beds. It means that less people need medical interventions.
"Medical interventions are an unpleasant experience for patients. And this means that we have got more freedom and are more able to admit people."
A service working with GP surgeries has also been launched, with members of the Steps team helping to work with people with eating disorders from the start.
Steps offers inpatient and outpatient groups to support people with eating disorders, including creative writing and arts and crafts, healthy exercise groups and talking groups. They also work with people who are not sure whether they are ready to make the necessary changes in their life to help them consider the way their eating disorder impacts on their life.
Sessions are also offered to parents and carers.
Alison Cox has been involved with the service since 2004, when her daughter was diagnosed with anorexia, and has since returned to talk to other parents and carers about her experiences. She was also at the centre for its open day yesterday.
"My daughter is now two years in recovery, having come out of the Steps eating disorders unit in 2011.
"My relationship with them has been fantastic. I used to have regular meetings with them and they were able to give me practical guidance.
"I feel proud of the fact they have asked me to come back and share my experiences. It is really positive for me to do."
Ms Jakubowska said: "I feel quite emotional. I have been here since day one, when I was on my own, and now looking around here, I just think it is fantastic."