Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), including Kent Surrey Sussex AHSN, are supporting mental health teams across England to speed up diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders in young people aged 16 to 25 through FREED.

What is FREED?
FREED (First episode Rapid Early intervention for Eating Disorders), a model developed by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London. This is an evidence-based, specialist care package for 16 to 25-year-olds with a first episode eating disorder of less than three years’ duration. Broadly based on the early intervention model for psychosis, it overcomes barriers to early treatment and recovery and provides highly coordinated early care, with a central focus on reducing the duration of an untreated eating disorder.

What are the outcomes we trying to achieve?
* Earlier intervention and treatment of eating disorders in young people
* Reduction in the length of time young people have untreated eating disorders
* Reduction in waiting times, day/in-patient admissions and bed days
* Cost savings through reduced use of healthcare services, in particular reduced need for day/in-patient admissions.

To find out more, please contact Becca Randell, Implementation Lead or Ben Augustine, Project Co-ordinator.


In July 2022 the NELFT’s Enhanced Freed Service was launched. For more information, see the press release on our website.

Peer support workers in eating disorder services

The South East Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) (Wessex, Oxford and Kent Surrey Sussex) have recently undertaken research to explore the potential role of peer support in the management of eating disorders.

Three surveys (one staff survey and two patient surveys) of over 100 respondents in our regions have gathered the views and experiences of service users, carers and NHS employees towards peer support.

Peer support workers (PSW) are people who are integrated into the care team to help support mental health service users and their families. PSW often have experienced the particular conditions themselves and therefore are able to empathise and offer a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by service users. While peer support is not currently part of the early intervention pathway, it is seen as having the potential to work well within an eating disorder service.

Key findings

Our surveys found that:

  • 50% of child and adolescent mental health services users (CAMHS), 81% of adult eating disorder service users and 100% of carers say they think having a peer support worker is a good idea;
  • Service users and carers say that support from a peer support worker would be most useful for: helping with practical activities like budgeting and organisation, talking about medication and treatment options, liaising with education and using positive, non-medical language;
  • Most respondents in the staff survey say they think that peer support will be effective within eating disorders;
  • 100% of staff with peer support work experience and 96% without experience express potential interest in implementing/ learning about the role of peer support workers in the eating disorder pathway.

Download the full survey objectives, methodology and analysis here.


Peer Support in Eating Disorders Services Webinar

Join our free webinar on Wednesday 1 March 2023, between 09:30 – 12:00 to learn more about the survey findings and to hear from experts on the practical aspects of implementing PSWs within an eating disorder environment.  Register for your place via this link.