GPs 'failing to help people with eating disorders'

GPs are failing to help people suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, a charity said today.

A new report from the charity Beat found that only 15 per cent of sufferers felt their GP understood their disorder or knew how to help them.

Many thought their GP was not up-to-date on eating disorders and some believed he or she did not take them seriously.

Some GPs told patients they were "going through a phase" or had embarked on a diet "gone wrong".

The report comes after figures released last week showed a rise in the number of young girls admitted to hospital with anorexia.

Over the last decade, the number of admissions among girls aged 16 and under in England jumped 80 per cent, from 256 in 1996/97 to 462 in 2006/07.

Beat chief executive Susan Ringwood said the rise could be down to a "wait and see" attitude in primary care, with young girls only being admitted when they were seriously ill.

Today's report, based on a survey of 1,500 people with eating disorders, found that many sufferers did not think their GP was knowledgeable about treatments or how to access them.

The report said a patient's recovery was not about choice - a current NHS buzz word - but was entirely down to chance, "with the odds stacked against them".

One patient told the charity: "I felt as if my weight had to drop before the GP would take my worries seriously" while another said: "When I first went to see my GP they didn't listen at all. They just told me it was a phase I was going through."

Another sufferer said: "I left the doctors feeling disheartened, patronised and as if I was making a big fuss about nothing."

Guidelines for the NHS from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) were an excellent tool for GPs but implementation varied across the country, the charity said.

The guidelines set out how 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.

Eating disorders are estimated to affect more than 1.1 million people in the UK.

Launching the report, Ms Ringwood congratulated Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who acknowledged last week that late diagnosis of eating disorders was an issue.

"Gordon Brown has just become the first Prime Minister to acknowledge the problem of eating disorders," she said.

"The Prime Minister admitted that treatment for eating disorders is not always good enough.

"He indicated this is something that the Government would work to change.

"However - despite these positive signs - we are aware that people affected by eating disorders still aren't getting the treatment and support they need.

"Only 15 per cent of the people we surveyed felt their GP understood eating disorders and knew how to help.

"This is a shocking statistic: it means that the majority of people encounter uninformed GPs - a huge obstacle to their recovery."

Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said doctors were aware of the signs of eating disorders.

He said: "One problem is that the group of patients we are dealing with - including bulimics who look as if they are eating normally - frequently present to GPs on a number of occasions before they open up about their problems.

"Eating disorders don't respect age or sex or social background; boys as well as girls are affected, old people as well as young people.

"Often they are associated with psychological traumas such as a death in the family or bullying at school.

"It often takes a while for there to be understanding of the problem, 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."

Prof Field said specialist services, where patients can be referred, do need to improve, adding that the quality was "patchy" across the country.

He said the Nice guidance recommended patients were managed outside of hospital settings.

The rise in the number of admissions to hospital could represent a success for the NHS, perhaps because more services were available or more people are being referred, he added.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence