The FREED Project (first episode and rapid early intervention in eating disorders): Service model, feasibility and acceptability.

Brown, A., McClelland, J., Boysen, E., Mountford, V., Glennon, D., & Schmidt, U. (2018)

Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 12, 250-257.


Eating disorders (EDs) are disabling disorders, predominantly affecting adolescents and young adults. Untreated symptoms have lasting effects on brain, body and behaviour. Care pathway-related barriers often prevent early detection and treatment of ED. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility and acceptability of FREED (First Episode and Rapid Early Intervention for Eating Disorder), a novel service for young people (aged 18-25 years) with recent ED onset (≤3 years), embedded in a specialist adult National Health Service ED service. Specifically, we assessed the impact of FREED on duration of time until specialist service contact (DUSC), duration of untreated ED (DUED) and wait-times for assessment and treatment compared with patients seen earlier in our service. Acceptability of FREED was also assessed.

Sixty individuals were recruited from September 2014 to August 2015. Fifty-one of these were compared with 89 patients seen earlier.

FREED patients, from areas with minimal National Health Service gatekeeping (14/51), had markedly shorter DUSC and DUED than controls (DUSC: 12.4 months vs. 16.2 months; DUED 13.0 months vs. 19.1 months), whereas those with complex gatekeeping (37/51) had shorter DUED (17.7 months), but longer DUSC (16.9 months) than controls. FREED patients waited significantly less time for both assessment and treatment than controls, had significantly better treatment uptake and were highly satisfied with the process of starting treatment.

FREED is a feasible and acceptable service which successfully reduced waiting times. Reductions in DUSC and DUED depend on gatekeeping arrangements. More research is required to establish clinical outcomes of FREED.

McClelland JA, Hodsoll J, Brown A, Lang K, Boysen E, Flynn M, Mountford VA, Glennon D, Schmidt U (2018). A pilot evaluation of a novel First Episode and Rapid Early Intervention service for Eating Disorders (FREED). European Eating Disorders Review, 26, 129-140.

This pilot study assesses the impact of FREED (First Episode Rapid Early Intervention for Eating Disorders [ED]), a novel transdiagnostic service for emerging adults with recent ED onset, on clinical outcomes. Data were collected from 56 patients and 19 carers for 12 months following enrolment. FREED patients showed significant improvements in ED and other symptoms across time. Carers also showed psychological improvements. For FREED anorexia nervosa (AN) patients, body mass index (BMI) at initial clinical assessment was similar to that of comparable patients (audit cohort) seen in our service before (16.4 vs 16.1 kg/m2). By start of treatment, because of their shorter wait, FREED‐AN had gained weight whereas audit patients had lost (16.7 vs 15.8 kg/m2). This difference continued throughout treatment, and at 12 months, nearly 60% FREED‐AN patients returned to a BMI of 18.5 or greater. FREED shows promise as a service model for emerging adults with EDs.

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