This project was funded between November 2016 and August 2018.

  • Led by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, in partnership with King’s College London, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and North East London NHS Foundation Trust.
  • Developed evidence for the national scalability of FREED, an early intervention service for young people with eating disorders.
  • Aimed to achieve quality improvements, including rapid access to effective treatment, across four UK eating disorder services.

Eating disorders are severe mental health conditions that usually start in adolescence or early adulthood. The first three years of illness offer a window for early, effective intervention in order to achieve a full recovery. Beyond this, lasting brain changes can lead to much poorer outcomes.

A key barrier to early, effective treatment is poor access to services. The FREED (First episode Rapid Early intervention for Eating Disorders) programme has been shown to reduce waiting times for treatment and the duration of untreated eating disorders in young people (aged 16 to 25) who have had an eating disorder for less than three years.

FREED interventions include a rapid screening and assessment protocol, evidence-based guided self-help interventions and psychological therapies for patients and carers, and an implementation toolkit for staff and services.

This project aimed to demonstrate the scalability of the FREED approach by implementing it across four specialist eating disorder services in Greater London and Yorkshire. 

Each partner organisation had a FREED champion who led implementation locally. Evaluation has included case-control comparisons with patients treated before the introduction of FREED, a one-year outcome evaluation, and qualitative interviews with patients, carers, clinicians and commissioners.

So far, 278 young people have been enrolled in FREED-UP and feedback has been consistently positive. There are now eight services using or preparing to use FREED, and plans are in place to continue to scale up. By 2020, it is hoped that FREED will be available to at least two-thirds of the UK population. 

The evidence is now being used to promote FREED as a national service delivery model that empowers patients and families to engage with treatment, promotes recovery and reduces future service utilisation. 

About this programme


Scaling Up Improvement

This programme offers £500,000 funding to supports teams to take successful interventions or...

You might also like...


Ten innovative projects selected to be part of programme to improve analytical capability in health and care services

This programme aims to improve analytical capability in support of health and care services.


Moving beyond bean counting

This project is aiming to improve analytical capabilities within health visiting, with a focus on...

Improvement project

An open-source suite to enable and advance analyst engagement in Population Health Management

This project aims to help NHS organisations be self-sufficient when it comes to exploring components...

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

Many groups at risk of deep and persistent poverty have been especially affected by #COVID19. @franksoodeen at…

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more