Information for the public

Where can I have treatment?

Normally, you will be able to go to the clinic for your appointment and then go home – this is called having outpatient appointments.

Rarely, doctors may want a person to stay for longer (for example half a day) at a clinic or hospital – this is called day patient care. People who are extremely unwell and need care straightaway need to be admitted to hospital as inpatients. They will usually stay until their life is no longer at immediate risk.

Who should have day patient or inpatient care?

You are more likely to need day patient or inpatient care if:

  • your weight or BMI is very low and you're still losing weight

  • you are seriously ill and your life is at risk

  • you are under 18 and you don't have enough support at home to keep you safe

  • healthcare professionals are worried that you might harm yourself.

The healthcare professionals at the clinic or hospital will decide whether day patient or inpatient care will be best for you. Inpatient care is usually only helpful in emergencies.

What does inpatient care involve?

Inpatient care allows healthcare professionals to closely monitor your weight and health while you have therapy. If your weight is very low, they will be able to give you the right support to gain weight slowly and safely.

You should be able to start a new talking therapy or carry on with one that you have already started. If a talking therapy hasn't helped, talk to your doctor or other professionals about trying a different one.

While you are an inpatient your care team should make sure your family and carers, your GP and other professionals you see locally know what's happening with your care.

How long will I need to stay?

How long you are admitted for will depend how much help you need. After the first month, everyone involved in your care – including your family or carers if you are happy with them being involved – should meet to discuss whether you could change to outpatient or day patient care. This decision is based not only on whether you have reached a healthy weight but on your overall health, including your mental health. When it is time to leave, your doctor should involve you in writing a care plan for the care you will need when you are discharged.

Children and young people

If you're under 18 and you need to be admitted, your doctor should find a place for you somewhere close to your home. The clinic should be one that is used to caring for children and young people with eating disorders and can help you to keep up with your schooling while you are having treatment.

Compulsory treatment

Occasionally, someone with an eating disorder does not want to have treatment even though they are seriously ill. As a last resort doctors can admit them to hospital for compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act. This is sometimes called being sectioned.

For children and young people under 16 who doctors believe are not able to give consent, they may ask a parent or carer to consent to treatment on your behalf.

You can find out more about how the Mental Health Act is used on NHS Choices.