The parents of an anorexic teenager claim to have travelled 8,000 miles to visit their daughter, as a result of severe bed shortages. Stephen and Julia Hollings, from Buckinghamshire, have spent hours driving up and down to Glasgow to see their daughter, Fiona, over the course of the last four months.
Fiona, 19, is currently undergoing treatment for anorexia at a specialist unit in Glasgow. The hospital is approximately 400 miles away from her family home in High Wycombe, but a severe bed shortage means that there are no closer alternatives.
Speaking in an interview with the BBC, Stephen said that the couple wants to visit their daughter as often as possible, as phone calls simply aren’t the same as seeing somebody in the flesh. You can’t give them a hug, or react to their facial expressions or their body language, he explained.
Stephen first contacted BBC Radio 5 Live Investigates in June when Fiona was undergoing treatment in a general mental health unit in Oxfordshire. At the time, Fiona’s condition was deteriorating noticeably and it was clear that she needed specialist help. It took around a month for a bed in an eating disorder unit to become available, and the only bed was in Scotland.
Stephen said the situation was made all the more challenging by the distance, and urged the government to act. He described the current situation as “unacceptable” and said that more funding should be devoted to helping young and vulnerable people like Fiona.
In a statement, representatives from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust agreed that it was unacceptable that patients should have to travel so far for treatment, but insisted that everything was being done to try and cope with increased demand for specialist beds for those affected by eating disorders.