Early Intervention Eating Disorders (FREED) National Spread Programme has been shortlisted for an HSJ Award 2023

August 14, 2023

A mental health programme which has benefitted 1000s of young people with eating disorders has been shortlisted for a prestigious national HSJ Award.

An early intervention eating disorder model which originated in south London has helped over 2,000 young people has received national recognition today (Monday, August 14).

It has been announced that the First episode Rapid Early intervention for Eating Disorders (FREED) model aimed at 16 to 25-year-olds developed by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) and King’s College London (KCL) has been shortlisted for a 2023 HSJ Award.

The model provides swift access to specialised, evidence-based treatments tailored to youth, incorporating developmental considerations with a focus on early intervention. In 2020, it was selected by the Academic Health Science Network as a national programme, with the Health Innovation Network, the AHSN for south London, managing the rollout. To date, the programme has benefited 2,722 young people, leading to full early recovery in approximately 65% and halving the need for costly and disruptive in-patient treatment. The model has now been implemented in over 50 eligible mental health trusts in England, leading to estimated NHS savings of £12.1 million.

Dr Rishi Das-Gupta, the Chief Executive of the Health Innovation Network (HIN) said: "I’m pleased that the HIN has been able to support the spread of FREED. We know that eating disorders impact the lives of many young people and that intervening early is extremely helpful. This programme exemplifies how we can innovate in care delivery to reduce health inequalities and enhance access to services for our local communities - and reaching over 2,000 patients since the start of the programme is a mark of the impact of the teams delivering the service."

Ulrike Schmidt, Professor of Eating Disorders at KCL and Consultant Psychiatrist at SLaM who has led development and evaluation of FREED said: “Adoption of our programme by the AHSN/HIN has turbo-charged our ability to make FREED available to young people in all parts of England. We are now working to spread and improve the evidence-base for FREED further, both nationally and internationally.”

Danielle Glennon, Head of FREED and Head of Psychology & Psychotherapy at SLaM who alongside Professor Schmidt has been part of FREED’s story since the beginning, said: “The AHSN/HIN programme meant that despite the unrivalled challenges clinicians faced through COVID, we could continue to support teams in making FREED a reality for young people in their area. The commitment, creativity, and willingness to share, as the FREED network grew, is inspirational.”

Laura Semple the Director for National Programmes at the AHSN Network said: “Over the last three years, it has been an honour to collaborate with the 15 AHSNs on the FREED Programme. Clinical colleagues have worked diligently with their AHSN partners on the ground to get new FREED services up and running across England and it is excellent to see this achievement recognised. While we know there is much more to do to improve care for young people, the national availability of FREED is vitally important progress and we look forward to seeing the FREED network continue to thrive in the future.”

More than 1,400 entries were received for this year’s HSJ Awards, with 223 projects and individuals reaching the final shortlist, making it the biggest awards programme in the award’s 43-year history. The high volume - and exceptional quality – of applications once again mirrors the impressive levels of innovation and care continually being developed within the UK’s healthcare networks.

The winners will be announced during the awards ceremony at Evolution London on November 16, 2023.