ED Transitions Module 2
Supporting Transitions Between Services

The resources on this page are designed to help you understand:

  • What a good transition between Child and Adolescent Eating Disorder Services (CAEDS) and Adult Eating Disorder Services (AEDS) should look like
  • What preparation needs to occur for good transitions
  • How services can develop better ways of co-working
  • The practicalities of transition planning

This module is also available as a downloadable PDF.

This module summarises the Royal College of Psychiatry (RCPsych) "Managing transitions when the patient has an eating disorder" guidance document, as well as providing additional resources and inspiration. For further reading, please see links to wider transition materials below:

Additional resources: 

• Adult eating disorders: community, inpatient and intensive day patient care Guidance for commissioners and providers [section 3.9 Managing Transitions

• Access and Waiting Time Standard for Children and Young People with an Eating Disorder Commissioning Guide [section 6.8 Support transitions]

• NICE guidance on Transition from Children’s to Adult’s Services

The importance of planning for transitions and tailoring your approach

RCPsych guidance suggests the need for clinicians to be aware of Eating Disorders (ED)-specific characteristics which may make transitions between CAEDS and AEDS more difficult.

Think for a moment about the young people that you see...which of their characteristics may make it hard for them to accept a service transition?

Some of these characteristics could include:

  • Shame and avoidance
  • Anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty
  • Comorbidities (e.g. depression)
  • Low levels of cognitive flexibility (e.g. comorbid Autistic Spectrum Disorder diagnosis)
  • Ambivalence about treatment
  • Impulsivity

In planning for a service transition with your patients, try to hold these characteristics and their different needs in mind. You may also need to consider the individual circumstances of the young person - such as whether they are starting university, their cultural background or changes to their social life. These additional factors are explored in greater depth in Module 5.

Look at the tiles below to view some options for tailoring your approach to transitions to different patient characteristics:

Anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty

(a) Normalise - a degree of anxiety is normal in novel situations; (b) Find out what is most anxiety provoking about the transition & take action accordingly; (c) Highlight the positives of transition & provide a clear rationale for it; (d) Address uncertainties by providing good quality, relevant and accessible information

Low levels of cognitive flexibility (e.g. comorbid ASD)

Consider continuation of family work whilst progressing to individual treatment, taking into account the young person’s need for a gradual adoption of transition-related changes.

Ambivalence about treatment

(a) Take a proactive motivational stance that is appropriate to age and developmental stage. (b) Give options wherever you can. (c) Discuss negotiables and non-negotiables.


Provide a positive, hopeful stance. Transition offers an opportunity for a fresh start to support the young person's recovery.


Involve the patient in creating a well-structured care plan, for them to refer to. Transition preparation should be goal directed with progress carefully monitored and recorded.

Shame and avoidance

More common for those purging or binge eating. Arrange peer-support during the transition if possible, to help alleviate feelings of shame and avoidance.

Additional resources:

Starting conversations about transitions and involving parents and carers

RCPsych guidance states that discussions about transitions between Childhood and Adolescent Eating Disorder Services (CAEDS) and Adult Eating Disorder Services (AEDS) should start at least 6 months before the planned transition.

Transition meetings should be set up at the earliest opportunity involving the young person and their family/carers. Good quality information should be provided to patients and their carers. Addressing expectations around autonomy and confidentiality is particularly important.

Timings for transitions

RCPsych guidance states that decisions about the timing of transitions between Childhood and Adolescent Eating Disorder Services (CAEDS) and Adult Eating Disorder Services (AEDS) should consider the following factors:

  • The young person's degree of maturity and independence from family
  • The need for ongoing work with family/carers
  • Education/employment circumstances
  • Links with other medical and social services
  • The views of the patient and carers
  • Geographical moves (e.g. moving to a new city or town for university)

Transitions should be delayed if there is a crisis. Conversely, there may be an opportunity for an early transition to AEDS if the young person is better suited to AEDS and they feel comfortable doing so. For example, there may be a wider range of individual therapy options available in AEDS than in CAEDS.

The content below outlines some practical considerations and possible tactics for managing each of these key factors:

Young person's maturity and independence from family/carers

If maturity is low and dependence on family or carers is high, consider continuation of family work under CAEDS with a co-therapist from AEDS, and/or family-based treatment under AEDS or individual treatment from AEDS that retains family involvement. Frame transition as an opportunity for personal growth.

Need for ongoing work with the family or carers

As above, or consider offering multi-family group given its suitability in older adolescents/emerging adults. If available, give family members the option of attending a carer's support group.

Education/employment issues

Consider delaying transition until after important exams or work deadlines/interviews. May-June tends to be the busiest period of the year for school exams.

Links with other medical and social services

GP and other relevant services to be involved at the planning stage (e.g. in a short meeting), as needed.

Wishes of patients and carers

At the start of the transition process, ask for the views of the patients and carers on what they ideally would want the transition to look like, and what support they will need.

Delaying transition if there is a crisis

Delay the transition until the young person has stabilised.

Ensuring good working relationships between CAEDS, AEDS and other services

Transition coordinators

Consider appointing a transition coordinator for transitions between CAMHS and AMHS. This may involve the identification of a key worker from each service or a permanent joint post shared between services. The role of the transition coordinator, with the support of other team members, is to guide and support young people and carers through the transition process and function as a point of contact for all parties.

Clear protocols and pathways

Services should have clear protocols and pathways for patients transitioning between them. Young people and their carers, as well as clinicians and managers, should be consulted during the development and evolution of such protocols.

Providing good information

From the earliest stage the provision of good-quality information to the young person and their family/carers will be important. This may include facts about the service they may be joining, as well as about the process of transition itself. Aspects of care planning and how that is communicated will be part of this.

Additional resources

Attachment issues

Respect for the importance of attachments and therapeutic alliances is crucial in the work towards recovery from an eating disorder. A sensitive and developmentally informed approach to a transition may transform it from a traumatic and disjointed experience into an opportunity for building resilience and healthy maturation.

RCPsych guidance emphasises that good working relationships between CAEDS and AEDS need to be nurtured.

They also say that joint working and training fosters a spirit of mutual respect and reciprocal learning between services. This can also prevent splits developing; these can occur in a variety of situations, for example when clinicians from one team imply that the other provides an inferior service.

This point is important. There is some research evidence suggesting that CAEDS and AEDS clinicians do sometimes hold biased beliefs about each other (Lockertsen et al., 2020).

So, let’s look at the reasons why this might be the case in more detail:

Overcoming barriers to transition: service collaboration and culture

Do any of the thoughts shown below ever go through your mind when you are dealing with colleagues from your partner team? If so what does that say about your team relationships? How might this affect transitions of patients?

  • "...they only deal with nice, easy, straightforward cases"
  • "...if we had the amount of resources they had, we'd do brilliantly"
  • "...they deal only with complex, chronic (hopeless) cases"
  • "...they exclude families, are focused on impairment or deficits and are remedial/palliative in approach"

In order to foster good working relationships, it is important to challenge and address these unhelpful beliefs. This can be achieved by promoting a shared understanding of each other’s working practices and range of treatment options, so that each team is well informed about the other.

Ideas for strengthening co-working with CAEDS or AEDS colleagues

  • Regular joint learning events or training sessions between teams
  • Shared posts
  • Regular meetings between transition champions in both teams
  • Shared projects and initiatives
    • Joint public-facing initiatives such as conferences, open days, websites, joint GP liaison, joint training of others e.g. on Medical Emergencies in Eating Disorders (MEED)
    • Joint quality improvement/research, e.g. finding out how big the referral gap is between CAEDS and AEDS in your localityJoint treatment provision, e.g. multi-family groups

There are many other ways in which teams can find creative ways to co-work. Let your imagination run riot!

Building good relationships between other services

RCPsych guidance states that where there has been significant involvement of paediatric or medical services or social care, these services should be involved in transition planning. It is helpful when general practitioners (GPs) can be involved in planning and facilitating the transition; when they cannot be directly involved, minutes of meetings could be copied to them.

It is also important to note that ideal practice is likely to be very resource intensive, especially during periods where relationships between services are changing or developing. As such it is important to look at efficient working practices and have open conversations about resource challenges or possible areas for efficiency improvements.

The practicalities of good transitions

There are a number of practical steps which can support good transitions at a service level:

The transition care plan

An agreed and well-structured, patient-centred care plan, focused on the individual rather than on organisational considerations, can be the most important single element in the whole transition experience.

The young person must be consulted and involved in discussions about the care plan, taking into account their:

  • Stage of recovery
  • Level of maturity
  • Personality

Dunn found that young people and parents agreed that transition preparation should be asset-focused rather than deficit-focused, i.e. focused designing a plan that plays on the strengths of the young person rather than trying to "fix" perceived weaknesses. Building self-confidence was seen as key, along with resilience, help-seeking, coping strategies, self-esteem, organisation and social skills.

The transition care plan is covered in more depth in Module 3.

Additional resources

Multidisciplinary discharge planning meeting & joint working

Formal handover of care should be structured by at least one specific multidisciplinary discharge planning meeting. More than one meeting may be required, if the transition process lasts over several months.

There should be an overlap period of joint working by both services during the transition, in order to:

  • Explore and explain the differences in the ways of working between the two services
  • Help the patient to get to know key members of staff from the new service
  • Put in place arrangements for the necessary therapeutic interventions
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