South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Scaling up early intervention services for young people with eating disorders

Eating disorders are severe mental health conditions that usually start in adolescence or early adulthood. Within the first three years of illness, early effective intervention can help to achieve a full recovery. After this, lasting brain changes can lead to much poorer outcomes.

Poor access to services is a key barrier to early effective treatment. FREED is an early intervention service for young people with eating disorders. The programme includes rapid screening and assessment , guided self-help interventions and psychological therapies for patients and carers, and an implementation toolkit for staff and services.

It has shown to reduce waiting times for treatment and duration of untreated eating disorders in young people who have had an eating disorder for less than three years.

The project aims to implement this approach across four specialist eating disorder services in Greater London and Yorkshire. The main aims are to reduce waiting times for treatment and the duration of untreated eating disorders, improve treatment, engagement and clinical outcomes, as well as demonstrating cost effectiveness.

FREED champions will lead the implementation and dissemination of the approach at each partner organisation. It is hoped that evidence from this scaling up will lead to FREED being used nationally as a model that empowers patients and families to engage with treatment, promotes recovery and reduce future service usage.

Find out more about FREED at

Find out more about the project