ITV News reporter Chloe Keedy spoke with Nikki Grahame's friends
Close friends of Big Brother star Nikki Grahame said they felt "massively let down" after they begged a hospital not to discharge her hours before she died weighing less than four stone.
Speaking to ITV News London, Carly Cunningham and Leon Dee said they pleaded with staff to let Nikki stay as her health spiralled during lockdown.
In an interview with reporter Chloe Keedy, Carly said: "Why would you send someone home who’s that critical? And then she died the next morning and that’s what none of us could really get our heads around. You’ve got her mum pleading with them not to let her go home - Nikki’s an adult so she gets a bit more of a say. We’re all saying come on Nikki you need to stay. But it was someone at that hospital that allowed her to go home."
Grahame, who rose to fame following a stint as a contestant on the Channel 4 reality show in 2006, died in April aged just 38.
"I feel like Nikki was massively let down by the system and I think deep down she felt like that - her mum, sister, friends all feel like that, said Carly.
"There’s not enough out there to help people and she was so poorly - they could see how poorly she was so why did they not do enough?," she added.
Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said staff were "deeply saddened" to learn of the death of Miss Grahame, adding:
Grahame finished fifth on the seventh series of Big Brother and is widely seen as one of the show’s best-known and most popular contestants.
She published two autobiographies, Dying To Be Thin and Fragile, and documented how she developed anorexia while still a teenager.
She battled the illness throughout her life and although friends fundraised to try and get private care Nikki was often turned away because she was so ill.
"Her Body Mass Index was so low that all these places where Nikki wanted to go… she wanted to go to certain places but they wouldn’t accept her because she was so ill," Leon Dee said.
"Some of the hospitals were saying she was too underweight. I was thinking how can she be too underweight. If that’s the case - what do you do at your clinic?" Carly added.
Nikki's friends said the system was failing to cope because there were too few beds, not enough funding and too few clinics to deal with people with anorexia.
Responding to our interview the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We are investing more money into the area of eating disorders to make sure there is more support. It's an area where we have seen a big increase in the number of problems, the number of people coming forward over the period of the pandemic - especially for girls and young women. So it's an area that I'm worried about. We're putting more investment in. I want to do all I can to support people who need the help of the NHS."
After Nikki's death her friends started a GoFundMe page, something they felt would not have been necessary if more money had been available.
"Why would you send someone home that's that critical? And then she died the next morning..." said one of Nikki's close friends
"There needs to be more funding. If there was more funding we wouldn’t have had to do the GoFundMe," Carly said.
"We would have got Nikki into somewhere, no matter if she needed refeeding they would have been able to do the refeeding.
"And have so much more awareness about eating disorders and how much it’s affecting people and throughout lockdown it’s skyrocketed with how many people are now suffering with eating disorders as well as mental health in general. And yet where do these people go? Who do they turn to?" she added.
For more information about the fundraising page set up by Nikki Grahame's friends click here.
If you, or someone you know, needs help, support or advice to deal with an eating disorder click here for the BEAT - Eating Disorders website.