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GPs "failing anorexia sufferers"

Young girls suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia may be being failed by their GP, reports the charity Beat.

It refers to figures showing that the number of admissions to hospital of girls aged 16 and under in England has risen by 80%, from 256 in 1996/97 to 462 in 2006/07.

Beat Chief Executive, Susan Ringwood, says that this might be the result of young girls only being admitted when they are seriously ill because of a "wait and see" attitude in primary care.

And this is linked to a widespread view that many GPs do not understand eating disorders, are not up to date on their treatment and do not take them seriously.

The charity says that although NHS guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence are an excellent tool for GPs, implementation varies across the country.

This view is supported by Professor Steve Field, Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, who has said that specialist services to which patients can be referred need to be improved.

Copyright © Press Association 2009


Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I have  to agree wth the previous comment. Most GPs would refer on if there was anyone to refer to, but specialist units are far, far too few and with counselling? Therapy always pushed there is not much they can do except sit and wait - hopefully, the government will plough some money into the area as they have drugs/acohol - it has to be cheaper than all these long-term hospital admissions these young girls have." - Karen, London

"As the parent of someone with an eating disorder and a member of BEAT I took part in the survey and in some discussion with BEAT about the publication of the results. I was concerned that the report would be used to pin the blame for everything that ever goes wrong in the treatment of these tragic diseases fairly on the shoulders of the country's GPs and it
seems to me that my fears were somewhat justified.

While I am sure that there are individual GPs who are prejudiced and uncaring, the majority are probably bumbling along trying to do their best with a fair amount of information but an appalling lack of options when it comes to referral to secondary care. Secondary care services are, as Prof Field has stated, 'patchy' and in many areas have been under severe pressure themselves during constant rounds of "reconfiguration" (which usually means cuts).

Understanding about the aetiology of, and best treatments for, these illnesses is still sketchy and a matter of furious debate among the 'experts'; so the fact that the 'average GP' has not kept up with the latest thinking should not be much of a surprise. It is, of course, a matter of concern, because, with the ever stretching of resources and threats of privatisation in secondary care, the 'average GP' is the person who, along with his or her relatives, ends up picking up the pieces for a sufferer if specialist care isn't available (as it usually isn't to most people with bulimia and a frighteningly high proportion of those with
anorexia) or when it proves ineffective.

I am delighted that Gordon Brown has acknowledged that late diagnosis of eating disorders is an issue, and indeed that he is interested in the illnesses at all; but if all he does about it is criticise the one group of people who are providing the majority of care then that will be a very great shame." - Marcella Brown, South-west England