Nearly 400 young people were treated by a regional health trust for eating disorders as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the mental health of the nation's children.

NHS England data shows 395 children and young people began treatment for eating disorders at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust between July 2020 and June 2021.

That was up from 198 over the same period a year earlier and the 225 seen in 2018-19, before the pandemic hit.

Of the patients who began treatment last year, 117 had been the subject of urgent referrals, compared to 30 the year before and 37 in 2018-19.

The NHS' mental health director said the health service has seen "greater numbers than ever before" as figures show a stark national increase.

The figures show the trust saw 44 per cent of urgently referred young people on time, while 71 per cent of other patients started treatment within 28 days.

NHS England's mental health director Claire Murdoch said the pandemic had taken its toll on the country's mental health but that staff had responded rapidly to treat youngsters with eating disorders, with the aid of additional Government funding and the roll out of dedicated services across England.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said eating disorders could have a devastating impact on sufferers and their families, adding that the Government is committed to ensuring young people in need of help get it.

She added: "As part of our Mental Health Recovery Action Plan, we’re investing £79 million to expand children’s mental health services and opening up eating disorder services to an extra 2,000 young people.

“Early intervention and treatment is vital.”

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