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GPs Fail Patients with Eating Disorders

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A new survey by the UK-based Beat [2]shows that only 15% of patients with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia felt their GP understood their condition or knew how to help them.

notaprettypictureSome said they felt their primary care physician did not take their problems seriously. Others felt they lacked knowledge about treatment options.

In England, the number of girls and young women requiring hospitalization for anorexia has increased 80% in the last decade. More than 1.1 million people in the UK are believed to have an eating disorder.

“People affected by eating disorders still aren’t getting the treatment and support they need,” Beat chief executive Susan Ringwood concluded.

According to the BBC [3], one young person in the survey was told to “go home and eat a burger,” while another was reassured she was just going through “a phase.”

Recently British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the NHS needed to improve diagnostic and therapeutic performance on eating disorders. “Sometimes it is late and sometimes things have gone too far,” he said.

But Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of GPs said physicians are for the most part doing an excellent job.

“It’s not very often that the patient comes to the GP and says ‘I’ve got an eating disorder’, but doctors do know what they are doing and the signs to look out for and patients should be reassured of this” he said.

Beat is the UK’s leading charity for people with eating disorders. It provides help lines, online support and self-help groups.

NICE guidelines on eating disorders [4]state that recovery is possible provided GPs listen to their patients, act quickly and, in the case of young people, involve their families as much as possible.