RCPsych issues statement on eating disorder patients being offered palliative care

Statement / comment
17 May 2023

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has commented on the use of palliative care for eating disorder patients following a series of recent reports on the subject in the media and on social media.

Dr Agnes Ayton, Chair of the Eating Disorders Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“Anorexia nervosa is not a terminal illness but it is still an extremely serious mental health condition with a higher mortality rate than any other mental illness.

“It’s troubling to learn that eating disorder patients have been offered palliative care, but we don’t have enough evidence to suggest this is becoming a trend.

“Offering palliative care may be appropriate if an individual has a physical co-morbidity; however, we would be deeply concerned if this started to be considered clinical practice for anorexia nervosa, for which treatment can help individuals recover. While some patients are less responsive to treatment than others, that does not mean they cannot recover now or in the future. Emerging research into the biological causes of anorexia may lead to new treatment methods down the line, which is why we urgently need more funding to support this research.

“The College has issued Medical Emergencies in Eating Disorders guidance which is aimed at making preventable deaths a thing of the past. It provides clinicians with the tools they need to effectively manage the physical, nutritional and psychiatric care of eating disorder patients. NHS trusts and ICBs must now make a commitment to implement this guidance. This will involve training and commissioning appropriate services.”

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