Innovation and Research in Eating Disorders Clinic

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are a type of mental health condition which involve people using “the control of food to cope with feelings and other situations.” They usually involve people doing things like eating too much or too little, excessive worrying or anxieties about weight or shape. Eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of gender, age or weight. Eating disorders still have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

The most common kinds of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: Controlling your weight by restricting your food, or by compensating in other ways such as over-exercising and/or purging
  • Bulimia Nervosa: Feeling out of control of how much food you’re eating, and then doing things such as making yourself sick or taking laxatives to avoid putting on weight
  • Binge-Eating Disorder (BED): Eating a lot of food over a short period of time until you are uncomfortably full

The Sussex Partnership Research in Eating Disorders (SPIRED) Clinic is an innovative, co-produced eating disorder research clinic, with close ties to the Sussex Eating Disorder Service (SEDS) as well as the University of Sussex. 

The SPIRED Clinic is a group of researchers committed to conducting research which improves the treatment and support available to people with eating disorders. Its main strength is that it is a collaboration; bringing together the expertise and experience of clinicians and people with lived experience of eating disorders in equal partnership.

Through a series of co-production events between the Lived Experience Panel and other members of the SPIRED clinic, six core principles to guide the clinic’s research have been developed:

  1. Real-World. Research should make an immediate, practical impact on the lives of people with eating disorders
  2. Tailored. Existing evidence-based treatments should be adapted to ensure they work effectively for marginalised groups
  3. Hopeful. More research is needed which focuses on improving people’s sense of hope in their recovery from eating disorders
  4. Experiential. Research should find ways of conveying the voices and experiences of people with eating disorders, and not solely rely on quantitative outcomes
  5. Broad. More evaluation of innovative and creative approaches to eating disorder treatment is needed; considering the therapeutic impact of artistic, occupational and other creative activities as well as the role of peers and family members
  6. Democratic. All eating disorder research should be co-produced with people who have lived experience of eating disorders

During their time in the Clinic all patients will continue to receive their usual care from their Assessment and Treatment service.

We work closely with the Sussex Eating Disorders Service (SEDS) to understand which of the treatments they are offering are helpful, and to collaborate with them on developing new treatments and pathways in an evidence-based way. If you do need treatment for an eating disorder, and want to access SEDS please talk to your GP.

We are currently in the process of creating a new project to try and increase hope and connection for people with eating disorders (‘the Hope Project’). This will be launched in 2023 and we will advertise it here, however if you want to be involved in developing or delivering ‘the Hope Project’ please get in touch with us via email: SPIREDClinic@spft.nhs.uk

Contact us

For further information, please contact: SPIREDClinic@spft.nhs.uk

Eating Disorders Research (SPIRED) Clinic,
Research and Development
Sussex Education Centre,
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust,
Mill View Hospital Site,
Nevill Avenue,
Hove,
BN3 7HZ

Twitter: @SPIREDClinic

The Lived Experience Advisory Panel meets to shape the research of the Clinic. If you would like to get involved, please email us: involvementinresearch@spft.nhs.uk

SPEAKS

SPEAKS is an NIHR-funded, mixed-methods feasibility study (across Kent and Sussex) evaluating a psychotherapeutic intervention targeting difficulties in emotional experience and regulation for adults with Anorexia Nervosa. Please click here for a short film about Emotion Focussed Schema Therapy for the SPEAKS study written and directed by Dr Anna Oldershaw and Dr Helen Startup and narrated by Dave Chawner.

This study has now closed. For more information about SPEAKS, please click here

Feasibility and Acceptability of Group-based MANTRA treatment for Anorexia

This qualitative study explores patient and therapist perspectives of a novel adaptation of a NICE recommended treatment for Anorexia in a group setting. Qualitative analysis for this project is conducted by members of the Lived Experience Group, alongside other SPIRED researchers.

Meta-Analysis of Studies Evaluating Eating Disorder Therapies for Patients with Personality Disorder

This review examines the effectiveness of existing therapies for a neglected group; patients with eating disorders alongside diagnoses of personality disorder. Extraction frameworks for this meta-analysis were decided in collaboration with the Lived Experience Panel for the SPIRED clinic, as well as a lived experience panel specific to personality disorders.

Systematic Review of Group-Based Treatments for Anorexia Nervosa

This review looks at barriers to and facilitators of group-based treatments for Anorexia. The importance of peers in recovery for Anorexia is well established in the literature, however clinicians are unwilling to develop group-based treatments due to their anxieties around peer-support for service users with Anorexia.

Service Evaluation of an Inpatient Transitions Pathway

A novel pathway has been developed in collaboration with the Sussex Eating Disorders Service for people leaving inpatient care, including an adapted WRAP plan developed with service users. This is being evaluated in collaboration with the University of Sussex.

The Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI)

Eating disorders are severe psychiatric illnesses and are associated with one of the highest mortality rates within mental health.

The Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) is a project exploring risk factors in individuals who have experienced eating disorders. It aims to better understand the genetic and environmental links to eating disorders in order to improve treatments for current and future patients. EDGI is also part of the NIHR BioResource, which is a large panel of participants with and without health conditions, that are interested in taking part in research; with the aim to improve health and medical care.

The project is led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) BioResource Centre Maudsley (part of the NIHR BioResource), researchers at King’s College London and Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity.

EDGI is also an online resource providing information, other optional questionnaires and research studies you may be interested in.

Who can take part?

Anyone who:

  • Is aged 16+
  • Lives in England
  • Is currently experiencing or has experienced an eating disorder in the past

For more information and details of how to take part, please see our study page here

Contact: AskAboutResearch@spft.nhs.uk

Other Service Evaluations

SPIRED is also evaluating the following projects as part of routine clinical delivery 1) The translation of CBT-T to being delivered in a virtual format 2) The delivery of integrated individual and group treatment for Bulimia Nervosa and Binge-Eating disorder.

Please contact us for more information: SPIREDClinic@spft.nhs.uk

Beyond Laughter: A Systematic Review to Understand How Interventions Utilise Comedy for Individuals Experiencing Mental Health Problems. 2023
Eshika Kafle, Cat Papastavrou Brooks, Dave Chawner, Una Foye, Dieter Declercq, Helen Brooks

This review, led by the SPRED Clinic, found that comedy interventions could be beneficial for mental health recovery and wellbeing; increasing people's sense of hope, their connectedness to others, helping them develop a positive identity, and empowering them.

The Maudsley Anorexia Nervosa Treatment for Adults (MANTRA): A Feasibility Case Series of an Integrated Group Based Approach. 2021.

Startup H, Franklin-Smith M, Barber W, Gilbert N, Brown Y, Glennon D, et al. 

In Press. Journal of Eating Disorders.


A film evaluating a therapy for people with Anorexia Nervosa

This short film is about Emotion Focussed Schema Therapy for the SPEAKS study written and directed by Dr Anna Oldershaw and Dr Helen Startup. SPEAKS is evaluating a psychotherapeutic intervention targeting difficulties in emotional experience and regulation for adults with Anorexia Nervosa. Narrated by Dave Chawner.

"Beyond Laughter" Comedy Review now available

The SPIRED clinic-led review: Beyond Laughter: A Systematic Review to Understand How Interventions Utilise Comedy for Individuals Experiencing Mental Health Problems" has just been published. This was a transdisciplinary collaboration between an SPFT clinician,  health researchers (from SPFT, KCL and University of Manchester), a senior lecturer in film and media from the University of Kent, and Dave Chawner, a stand-up comedian with lived experience of Anorexia (who is part of SPFT as a LEAP panel member.)

Our review found that comedy interventions could be beneficial for mental health recovery and wellbeing; increasing people's sense of hope, their connectedness to others, helping them develop a positive identity, and empowering them. Some possible ways they could have have been effective in doing this included through developing confidence in new skills and providing opportunities for social interaction, laughter, vulnerability, and cognitive flexibility. The full paper is available to read here


Funding to produce health videos with information on eating disorders and the impact of comedy interventions

Our research team has been awarded an AHRC Impact Accelerator Award (through the University of Kent), to create a series of videos disseminating our work. SPIRED clinic researchers, clinicians and LEAP members will have a key role in this collaboration to develop and film a series of videos to be hosted on Youtube's health channels. These videos will deliver accessible information on eating disorders, and the impact of comedy interventions in promoting recovery from these, as well as demonstrating some of the activities from our SPIRED LEAP collaborators' pilot "Comedy for Coping" project.


All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) launches new report on Eating Disorders

A report investigating investment in eating disorder research in the UK was published in 2021 and featured the SPIRED Clinic as example of good practice.


The 'Breaking the Cycle' report compiled by Beat - the eating disorder charity - on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Eating Disorders sets out the findings and recommendations from the APPG's inquiry into research funding, conducted from December 2020 to Spring 2021.


Dr Helen Startup, Consultant Psychologist and Researcher in Eating Disorders, said: “Individuals with eating disorders deserve the best care we can provide and this will come from greater investment in research, and in our clinical services.  The SPIRED Research Clinic is all about a synergy between co-produced research and a passion to improve clinical care.  We are most grateful to our Lived Experience Advisory Panel who are at the heart of everything we do.” 

Doolally Tap Podcast with Amy Soullier and Cerys Howell 

Amy and Cerys talk to Jo, a recovering anorexic from Birmingham, and Dr. Nicky Gilbert, a clinical psychologist working at Sussex Eating Disorders Services. Jo shares her personal journey with anorexia and Dr Nicky Gilbert gives a clinical perspective.

Sussex Eating Disorder Service was commended for Sussex Partnership Positive Practice Awards 2021 (COVID response team of the year), for its work supporting an increasing number of adults who are struggling with eating-related conditions.