Clinician Perspectives of the Implementation of an Early Intervention Service for Eating Disorders in England: A Mixed Method Study

Katie Richards*, Matthew Phillips, Luiza Grycuk, Lucy Hyam, Karina Allen, Ulrike Schmidt

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Background: The First Episode Rapid Early Intervention for Eating Disorders (FREED) service has been shown to reduce the wait for care and improve clinical outcomes in initial evaluations. These findings led to the national scaling of FREED in England. To support this scaling, we conducted a mixed method evaluation of the perceptions and experiences of clinicians in the early phases of scaling. The normalisation process theory (NPT) was used as a conceptual lens to understand if and how FREED becomes embedded in routine practice.
Methods: The convergent mixed method evaluation included 21 semi-structured interviews with clinicians from early adopter sites and 211 surveys administered to clinicians before, immediately after and 3 months after the FREED training. The interview guide and survey included questions evaluating attitudes towards early intervention for eating disorders (EDs) and NPT mechanisms. Interview data were analysed using an inductive thematic analysis. The NPT was applied to the inductively derived themes to evaluate if and how NPT domains impacted the implementation. Survey data were analysed using multilevel growth models.
Results: Six themes and 15 subthemes captured barriers and facilitators to implementation at the patient, clinician, service, intervention, implementation and wider system levels. These interacted with the NPT mechanisms to facilitate or hinder the embedding of FREED. Overall, clinicians were enthusiastic and positive towards early intervention for EDs and FREED, largely because of the expectation of improved patient outcomes. This was a considerable driver in the uptake and implementation of FREED. Clinicians also had reservations about capacity and the potential impact on other patients, which, at times, was a barrier for its use. The FREED training led to significant improvements in positive attitudes and NPT mechanisms that were largely maintained at the 3-month follow-up. However, negative attitudes did not significantly improve following training.
Conclusions: Positive attitudes towards early intervention for EDs increased enthusiasm and engagement with the model. Features of the model and its implementation were effective at developing adopter commitment and capabilities. However, there were aspects of the model and its implementation which require attention in the future (e.g., capacity and the potential impact on the wider service).
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Early intervention
  • Eating disorders
  • Normalisation Process Theory
  • Implementation

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