If your eating disorder requires more help than secondary care can offer you may be referred to a specialist setting such as a hospital, eating disorders unit or mental health unit. They will develop an individual care plan for you. You might access this care as an inpatient, day patient or outpatient. This level of care is tertiary care.
As a day patient you will attend the hospital during the day (e.g. 8am-4pm on weekdays) but not stay overnight (you might stay some weekends and the occasional night). While you are at hospital you will have supported meals and snacks, therapy sessions and group activities.
Most people go to the hospital daily for 3-6 months of treatment before moving back to outpatient support. If your health deteriorates while you are a day patient the team may ask you to come and stay as an inpatient.
I was so scared when I went into hospital, but I soon realised that everyone there just wanted to see me get better – they believed in me, so I was able to believe in myself
Being an inpatient means that you would be staying in the hospital all the time during the day and overnight to receive intensive treatment. This would include supported meals and snacks, therapy sessions, nutrition education, art/music therapies and much more.
When you arrive staff should inform you of the rules and ways of working of that hospital. Visitors may come to see you at certain times. If you are well enough and under 17 then you will have school at hospital or work sent from your own school. You can also personalise the room you stay in by bringing some of your own belongings from home.
…things did improve, as all the staff and other young people were so supportive. While I thought originally that it was going to make things worse, I can now recognise that I couldn't have got to where I am now without the help I received as an inpatient.
Your health will be assessed during your stay; this will determine how long your stay is. Sometimes someone who has been an inpatient will step down to being a day patient for a while before being discharged; this depends on the patient, the unit and the options available.
The support from nurses, doctors, dietitians, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, psychologist etc. is phenomenal. Their determination to make me better helped me struggle through the hardest times, they may seem evil at the time but looking back they truly saved my life.
NB: Not all eating disorder services that the NHS provide are listed on HelpFinder. Contact your local NHS trust for definitive information on local eating disorder services.