Coronavirus and Eating Disorders Find out more

Dr Paul Robinson, Jess Griffiths and Dr Jake Linardon

Paul Robinson
Dr Paul Robinson

Teaching Professor at UCL

Jess Griffiths
Jess Griffiths

Clinical Lead for Beat

Jake Linardon
Dr Jake Linardon

Senior Research Fellow at Deakin University

Taking advantage of the pandemic-driven changes in attitude to technology for the benefit of eating disorder patients

As the country went into lockdown, many eating disorder services were faced with the problem of how to provide care without face-to-face contact, a challenge exacerbated by the reluctance to engage in video conferencing commonly expressed by patients. This session will present four interventions which have developed or expanded during the pandemic, using technological solutions and taking advantage of the societal shift in attitude to such approaches.

Dr Jake Linardon will discuss key findings from his program of research on the role of technology in the management of eating disorders. Interventions delivered via innovative technologies are a viable way to address those existing help-seeking barriers that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the demand for digital interventions is strong among individuals with eating disorders, their evidence base, despite growing rapidly, is still in its infancy.

He will present data related to an increasing demand for digital self-help tools, the efficacy of his newly-developed web- and app-based interventions, and the prediction of patient responsiveness using complex data-driven, machine learning algorithms. He will show how digital interventions can play a fundamental role towards helping those experiencing an eating disorder.

Professor Paul Robinson will describe the model adapted for the pandemic by Orri, a dedicated day service for eating disorders which opened in February 2019, funded by insurance, private funds and the NHS. During lockdown, all services were moved online including physical and psychiatric assessment, individual, group and family therapy, staff supported meals and team reviews. Some monitoring was done in primary care at the request of Orri staff.

Regular outcome assessments were performed including BMI, Depression and Anxiety ratings and the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire. In addition satisfaction ratings with each element of the service were filled in regularly. Comparing online with face to face treatment, they found that it was possible to deliver the service online, although clinicians regarded some, more severely ill clients as unsuitable for online day care although they could be managed satisfactorily in face to face care. Several clients required hospital admission in both formats.

Weight gain was satisfactory in around 60% of underweight patients attending with no significant difference between online or face to face clients, although numbers were quite small. Satisfaction ratings from clients were high and there was no difference in satisfaction between online and face to face treatment.

Jess Griffiths will outline how Beat developed and provided remote delivery of guided self-help to sufferers of eating disorders, and will showcase a new online platform to support carers with learning, guidance and peer support.

Using online platforms and a recovery based app, Beat’s support officers are providing guided self-help to people at the earliest stages of their eating disorder, as well as to people with established Binge Eating Disorder, across the UK regardless of geographical obstacles. This has enabled people to access support earlier while reducing the burden on the NHS during the current workforce crisis. The session will present early results and feedback received.

In November 2021, Beat launched ‘The POD’ – a peer support and online development platform via which we support carers to help their loved ones towards recovery while protecting their own wellbeing. The platform is free to access for any carer anywhere in the UK.