The mum of a teenager whose battle with anorexia has left her too sick to be moved to a specialist unit says she is “living a nightmare”.
Natalia Goodchild is dangerously underweight and her mum Kristen, of County Durham, says she has fought desperately to have her moved to an eating disorder treatment unit close to home, but dedicated care is hugely over-subscribed.
The 14-year-old, who has been denied psychological help, is now suffering from kidney problems while continuing to lose weight rapidly - meaning she cannot be transferred from a generic hospital bed to a more suitable centre even if space were to become available.
After contacting MPs - who will debate what should be done to help eating disorder sufferers in the Commons this week - for help, Kristen told HuffPost UK: “It is a living nightmare. Eventually after a battle we convinced the Durham eating disorder team that she needs to be in a unit, but there was no availability in the north east and no waiting list to join.
“I guess the government views the situation as ‘no waiting list, no problem’.
″When we were eventually offered a bed at a unit in Middlesbrough - a 100-mile round trip from where we live - but Natalia is now too ill to be moved.
“She is a clever girl who is trapped in a cycle of OCD, anorexia and anxiety and she has been told she cannot receive psychological help until she gains weight.
“But it is a psychological problem which is preventing her eating. Her dad, James and I have gone round in circles with this argument for months now, begging for her to have help.
″She is wasting away before our eyes and it is heartbreaking.”
The 43-year-old gave up her job to care for Natalia, who has to spend her time at home on bed rest - but has been told she is not entitled to benefits as a result.
She added: “I really don’t know where I will get the petrol money or train money to visit her regularly in a unit, despite the fact family participation is shown to be beneficial to sufferers.
“I am sure many other parents face these barriers and we really want this issue to be highlighted.”
Eating Disorder Week began on Monday and an adjournment debate on the issue - led by Conservative MP Edward Argar - will take place in Parliament on Tuesday evening.
Argar has been campaigning for better medical provision for eating disorders after working with charity Beat, whose experts say nearly three years pass on average before before sufferers seek help.
“I wanted to highlight this on the floor of the House because it’s an extremely important issue,” he said.
“One of the key challenges around eating disorders is raising awareness - among individuals, so they recognise symptoms, among medical professionals and in society as a whole.
“It is vitally important, once a sufferer has been brave enough to seek help, that we move as fast as possible in terms of referring them for specialist treatment.”
Campaigners say children and adolescent mental health services - particularly those focused on treating eating disorders - have been chronically under-funded for several years.
Argar added: “I don’t think this is a particularly partisan issue - governments on both sides of the House have done some good work on this.
“But there is still much more to do.”
Earlier this year, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a £5 million fund for ‘mental health first aid’ in schools - but critics said the amount was “a drop in the ocean”.
When contacted by HuffPost UK, both the Department of Health and NHS England said they were unable to comment on specific cases, but that more was being done to tackle problems like those faced by Natalia and her family.