Overview of the programme

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, carrying one of the highest mortality rates among mental health conditions. Peak onset for eating disorders is during adolescence and early adulthood (although anyone can develop an eating disorder at any age), with referral rates rising both pre- and post-pandemic. The 18-25 age group accounted for half of the referrals (Source: Viljoen, 2022) 

The FREED model, developed by a team of researchers at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) and King’s College London, is a treatment model within an eating disorder service which provides rapid intervention, helping to reduce the length of time that an eating disorder goes untreated. 

Individuals referred to a FREED service will receive a telephone consultation within 48 hours of referral and begin treatment within four weeks, or two weeks especially in clinically serious cases. 

Through the programme, which runs until the end of March 2023, AHSNs are supporting their local system with business case development, recruitment, training with SLaM and enhancing shared learning opportunities. 

Summary of resources

Below, you will find information collated to help you learn more about this programme’s aims, impact, and wider context, including evidence and information to support your implementation. 

The resources have been selected for the benefit of health and care professionals. Some information links out to third party sources, and the Health Innovation Network is not responsible for the content on those sites. 

Nurse smiling with patient

Detailed information about FREED can be found on the FREED website

Science and research behind FREED a comprehensive overview of evidence on the FREED model.

NHS Futures FREED Workspace NHS professionals working within an existing or potential FREED service can request to join the NHS Futures FREED Workspace for implementation and service support. 

Several key policy papers set the context for the work needed to deliver effective services for young people with eating disorders: 

Royal College of Psychiatrists Position Statement 03 (2019) – The principle of early diagnosis and treatment to optimise disease outcomes is widely accepted in psychiatry, and medicine in general. The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ position statement supports early detection and awareness of symptom onset and rapid access to effective treatment in order to improve the course and prognosis of eating disorders and prevent them from becoming established. 

Ignoring the Alarms: How NHS Eating Disorder Services are Failing Patients (2017) – In 2017, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) established a clear rationale for localities to focus on improving care for adults with eating disorders. The subsequent Commissioning Guide for adult eating disorder teams highlights the importance of an embedded early intervention model, citing FREED as a good practice example for this. 

NICE Guidance NG69: Eating disorders: recognition and treatment (2017) – This NICE guidance recommends equal access to treatment for eating disorders beyond child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). FREED addresses this, providing equivalent rapid response for young adults and supporting people with eating disorders to be assessed and receive treatment at the earliest opportunity. 

If people suspect they or someone they know are at risk of having an eating disorder, they should contact their GP in the first instance. They can also talk in confidence to an adviser from BEAT, an eating disorders charity. 

You may find useful resources on the following sites: 

National enquiry

To find out more about any of our national programmes, please complete this form.

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