The UK’s eating disorder charity, Beat, has presented a petition with 9,134 signatures to the Department of Health.
The petition urges ministers to ensure all GPs are able to refer eating disorders sufferers to treatment without delay.
Our research, published in February 2017, found out that three out of ten eating disorder sufferers do not receive a referral from their GP to a mental health service for treatment, despite medical guidance that stresses the need for immediate referral.
Beat is also calling for increased training for medical students specialising in general practice so that all GPs are able to properly diagnose the psychological and behavioural symptoms of eating disorders, so they can refer immediately.
Beat Chief Executive Andrew Radford said: “We know that early intervention and speed in referring people with eating disorders is critical if they are to make the best possible recovery.
“Eating disorders are often 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.”
As the NICE guidelines specify, 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.
Andrew added: This isn’t about blaming GPs, it’s about enabling the 50 per cent of GPs who didn’t provide good care to be as supportive of eating disorder sufferers as the 50 per cent who did”.
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