An anorexia sufferer in the UK who has not eaten solid food for a whole year has been refused NHS treatment for her condition. Emma Duffy, 24, obtains nutrition from liquid nitrogen that is fed to her through a tube and she has borderline personality disorder (BPD), but a specialist unit in York that specifically deals with both disorders together has refused her a bed on account of her weight not being low enough. With The Retreat, one of the only clinics of its kind in the UK, declining her a place on the National Health Service, Duffy’s family are now attempting to raise £1 million in order to afford her a bed at the facility themselves.
Ms. Duffy’s 16-year plight with anorexia began when she was just eight years old, overhearing a comment made by her dance teacher that another girl in the class was fat. The off-the-cuff remark triggered Emma to become both anorexic and bulimic, conditions that she hid from the rest of her family for years. Through her early teens, she began to suffer from regular bouts of fainting and lost a lot of her hair, symptoms that forced her to finally reveal the truth to her mother, Beverley, when Emma was 18. “It’s a mental illness, not just about eating,” Beverly Duffy said.
Emma was being nursed at a hospital in Middlesbrough, but after six months it was decided she should be discharged and sent to The Retreat for more specialized treatment. However, three weeks ago her family was informed that the £1,000-a-day care would not be funded, meaning Emma was simply to be thrown back into the community weighing a meager six stone and likely to be in a suicidal state. In fact, after discovering the NHS had refused her specialist treatment, anorexia and BPD sufferer Emma left the hospital and took an overdose of pills, her life being saved only after her family found her by using phone tracking software. This was the most recent of nine suicide attempts by Ms. Duffy since her problems began.
Things had been looking up for a while before the denial, with Beverley Duffy saying that her daughter had put on 11 pounds during her time at Roseberry Park Hospital in Middlesbrough, where she was admitted after an attempted suicide in October 2013. Since the news unfortunately, Emma has even refused liquid nutrients, and her parents have been told on numerous occasions to prepare for the worst when her organs inevitably begin shutting down.
Beverley and second daughter Amy have now started a fundraising effort with the aim of paying for Emma’s treatment themselves. “She’s getting weaker and she needs help,” 51-year-old Beverley said, “I hope we can raise the money ourselves before it’s too late for her.”
Amy Duffy, 20, believes her sister’s care at the hospital is merely and attempt to stem the symptoms, and not necessarily aimed at getting to the source of the problem. “It’s like they’re trying to keep her alive, but not saving her,” she said, “She needs to go somewhere where they can treat her eating disorder and her personality disorder.”
The NHS has come under massive scrutiny over recent years, with particular outcry over a £4,800 ($7,550) breast enlargement operation carried out on the health service after its recipient claimed her flat chest was “ruining her life.” Whilst it remains one of the UK’s most valued assets, an anorexia sufferer being refused NHS treatment does spark a question over who actually benefits from the plan if it is not for those most in need.
Opinion by Zachary John