New eating disorder clinic opens in Rougham

Chris and Jackie McKenna with staff outside The Chimneys, which is now officially open
Chris and Jackie McKenna with staff outside The Chimneys, which is now officially open

A Bury St Edmunds couple have opened a new clinic for people with eating disorders following their daughter’s own battle with anorexia.

Chris and Jackie McKenna have turned their old family home in New Road, Rougham, into The Chimneys Healthcare Partnership, which provides inpatient care for 12 people with eating disorders.

The couple came up with the idea for the clinic in 2015, after visiting their youngest daughter Claire, then 18, in Australia and discovering that she was suffering with the illness.

“It was a big shock for us because after a few months of not seeing her every day, her weight had dropped significantly and she looked dreadful,” said Jackie.

After Claire returned home to seek help, it became clear to the family that there was a lack of NHS beds for people with eating disorders.

“We were extremely lucky because Claire got a bed in Norfolk which wasn’t too far away but some patients are sent as far as Glasgow,” said Chris, a consultant clinical psychologist who will be providing treatment at the clinic.

“Family, friends and being close to home is a big part of recovery so we wanted to give local people a place to get help and recover.”

The site boasts 12 bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms – four of which have disabled access - that are available for both men and women.

It also has two living areas, a visitor room, a kitchen and dining room, an occupational therapy room, a yoga studio and an art room.

Treatment is provided in an onsite medical suite as well as individual and family therapy rooms.

“We’ve spent a lot of time building a highly specialist team who specialise in eating disorders and lots of registered nurses,” said Chris.

“We hope that the atmosphere and space we’re providing along with that specialised group will make a real difference.”

The £2.5 million clinic, which is almost entirely self-funded by the McKennas, was officially registered with the Care Quality Commission this week, meaning it is now ready to accept patients.

But despite four individuals already showing their interest, Chris and Jackie have said that NHS England has failed to support them in the venture.

“NHS England has said it doesn’t need any more beds, but I know that isn’t true,” said Chris.

“I just want them to come along, see what we’re doing and see what we can offer to patients. We want people to be able to come on the NHS and receive good care close to home.”

Despite the set back, Chris and Jackie have received support from their staff, family and the local community.

“Just knowing how these parents feel spurs us on. When someone is so ill and frail, as a parent you’re scared to go into their room in the morning in case they’re not alive,” said Jackie.

“We’re dedicated to this, we believe in the service we’re offering. It’s going to be great.”

NHS England was approached for comment.