MINISTERS vowed to act after hearing how long waits for treatment for anorexia victims in Southampton threatened lives.

A Commons debate – led by Caroline Nokes – the Romsey and Southampton North MP – highlighted the terrible toll from a range of eating disorders.

And it heard how a lack of cash and expertise forces patients into “potentially fatal” waits up to nine months for treatment at April House, a specialist centre in Southampton.

Ms Nokes told ministers: “Eating disorders are not trivial conditions. Anorexia kills in the region of 20 per cent of sufferers and 40 per cent never recover.

“It is the single biggest killer of all mental illnesses and, for too long, it was dismissed as a problem of teenage girls who just needed to get a grip of their eating patterns.”

And it was not just anorexia – other eating disorders included bulimia, binge eating, compulsive over eating, and food neophobia – an extreme fear of trying new food.

The Conservative MP backed the “very firm message I received from staff at April House” about the critical need for early action when sufferers reach out for help.

She added: “That opportunity can be very easily lost if there is not the availability of help at that time.

“A six to nine-month wait can be extremely dangerous, or even fatal, and, at the end of any such wait, the sufferer may have done increased damage to their body.”

Staff from April House were in the chamber to hear the debate, for which Ms Nokes won time after a petition to the backbench business committee.

The MP also paid tribute to Becky Petley, a Southampton teenager treated at April House, who now campaigns and fundraises for better treatment for eating disorders.

She said: “What struck me about Becky was her willingness to open up about her battle with anorexia and also some of the stark truths.”

Becky spoke to the Daily Echo last year, revealing how her eating disorder began when she started secondary school, leading to her admission to Southampton General Hospital last year.

In reply, Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health minister, praised MPs, including Ms Nokes, for bringing forward the “powerful message” about the stigma.

Mr Lamb admitted: “Children and young people are still not getting the help they need.”

However, the minister insisted that would change, from April, when better specialist services would be required across England.

Mr Lamb told MPs: “This has the potential to improve the position in many parts of the country where specialist services are inadequate and, indeed, missing.”

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