Ensure GPs can refer sufferers without delay

What’s the issue?

It’s vital that people with eating disorders get treatment as quickly as possible to have the best chance of recovery. The first step is visiting the GP, who can refer patients to an eating disorders specialist. But for GPs to do that, they need to be equipped to identify an eating disorder in its early stages. Unfortunately, in a survey carried out by Beat in 2017, half of respondents said the care received from their GP was poor or very poor, and three out of ten sufferers did not get a referral to a mental health service.

What we want

Everyone deserves good quality care from their GP. Eating disorders are misunderstood and stigmatised illnesses, and often people who have them don’t feel that they deserve care or even realise that they’re ill. It’s important that visiting the GP helps them towards recovery, and doesn’t reinforce harmful beliefs that make it harder for them to access or engage with treatment.

The outcome of a GP appointment should be immediate referral to an eating disorders specialist. The earlier people can access treatment, the more effective the treatment is, the smaller the disruption to their lives, and the better chance they have of making a full recovery.

We know there are plenty of GPs giving fantastic care to people with eating disorders. We want to make sure every GP has the knowledge and understanding to provide a high standard of care to every person suffering.

My daughter has not fully recovered but [if it wasn’t] for GP care she might not be alive at all. The care shown by our GPs to the whole family has been exemplary. — Beat survey participant.
Having developed a special interest in eating disorders over the last 18 years as a GP, I am now supporting [other] GPs who have patients with eating disorders. GPs, in my experience, are dedicated in supporting their eating disordered patients but as they often only have limited exposure of eating disorders in training and in practice, they have appreciated the availability of support and guidance and quickly gain confidence. — Dr Nicola Mazey, GP

What we’ve done so far

During Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2017, we focused on the vital role of GPs in helping people access treatment quickly. Recognising that GPs may not have all the information they need to make a referral, we put together a leaflet for people to take to the GP with them. This contains guidance for the patient, people supporting them, and the GP to help them get a good outcome from the appointment. You can download the leaflet from our resources section.

In October 2017 we delivered the petition with 9,134 signatures from our campaigners in England to Jeremy Hunt.  We will be following up with the Department of Health about how we can work together to improve the knowledge of our GPs in England, to ensure that everyone seeking help receives treatment without delay. 

We also launched our Tips campaign to encourage people to familiarise themselves with the signs of eating disorders. You can download the Tips posters here

How you can help

The petition has now been delivered for England, but if you’re in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland you can still sign our petition calling for increased training on eating disorders for GPs and increased funding for services in your nation.

Your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is the NHS body that makes decisions about healthcare in your area. Together, CCGs are responsible for around two-thirds of the NHS budget. You can find out how to get in touch with yours here to learn about what they’re doing. Our Campaigns Toolkit has some useful advice about contacting your CCG. You could even look at joining the Patient and Community Advisory Group for your CCG – this is made up of both professionals and members of the public, and exists to make sure patients’ voices are being heard as the CCG makes decisions.

Order our Tips posters free here and put them up in your local community to help raise awareness of eating disorders and their signs and symptoms.

Want to keep up to date with this campaign, or hear about what else we’re doing? Sign up as a campaigner to receive our newsletter and learn about what you can do to help.