One in five UK medical schools don’t educate new doctors on how to spot eating disorders, according to new research.
The study, completed by the UK’s eating disorder charity BEAT, found that 20% of new doctors were not taught how to identify or diagnose the most common issues.
Concerns have been raised due to the importance of early intervention in people suffering with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
This week (February 28 to March 4) marks National Eating Disorder Awareness week and BEAT feel that the time to act is now.
“Early intervention for eating disorders is incredibly important,” said Tom Quinn, Director for External Affairs at BEAT.
“[Eating disorder services] are helping more people than ever before, but demand keeps going up. We need to make sure that local funding reaches eating disorder services.”
GPs and other healthcare professionals’ lack of familiarity with eating disorders has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, as isolation and uncertainty led to the emergence of new eating disorders or the relapse of those who had previously sought help.
Lucy Bishop, 19, said: “Changing care [in the pandemic] affected me.
“Phone consultations and assessments over the phone were really unhelpful.”
Mr Quinn agreed, stating: “The pandemic has had a detrimental impact in terms of people with eating disorders.”
Waiting times have also been increased due to the pandemic, something that 21-year-old Rose Sherlock views as a major issue.
“The longer people are left without support, the more their eating disorders progress, she said. “I was lucky because I was seen within a month and that was really beneficial.”
Hope Virgo, multi-award-winning mental health campaigner and founder of the #dumpthescales movement, believes more needs to be done to stem the increase in rates of eating disorders.
“The fact that people are dying in 2022 of eating disorders is absolutely appalling,” she said. “It is treatable, it is preventable, and we need to make sure we are taking the right steps.”
The 31-year-old added: “We need to make sure there is support and training for all frontline staff; from doctors, to dentists, to A&E staff.
“We need a complete reformation of the ways eating disorders are treated.”
If you’re suffering with an eating disorder, BEAT has a designated helpline:
Helpline: 0808 801 0677