Worth More Than 2 Hours

Despite the seriousness of eating disorders and the importance of early identification and treatment, there is a widespread lack of medical training on these illnesses in the UK. 

On average, less than 2 hours is spent on teaching about eating disorders in UK medical schools. 

1 in 5 medical schools provide no teaching on eating disorders at all. 

Some medical schools have now started making changes to improve teaching. But many have not. We're calling on those medical schools to commit to ensuring that every future doctor is trained to support those with eating disorders. 

 

Dear UK medical schools,

We the undersigned believe that every future doctor must be equipped to identify the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder and intervene early to help end the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders. A growing number of medical schools across the UK are leading the way in providing high quality training about eating disorders, and we’re calling on you to do the same. We are writing to you to urge you to review the training that your school provides and ensure it fully prepares your future doctors to support those with eating disorders. 

In the UK approximately 1 in 50 people of all ages, genders and backgrounds have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can be fatal – anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and one in six of those who ever experience binge eating disorder try to end their life. They can lead to severe long-term physical health consequences, and can have major impacts on individuals, families, and wider society. Whilst serious, eating disorders are treatable and recovery is possible. The key is that the sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the higher the chance of them making a recovery and the lower the cost to the NHS.  

A statutory inquiry in 2017, followed by a Parliamentary inquiry in 2019 recognised that a serious lack of training has devastating impacts on patients suffering from eating disorders who desperately need treatment. These inquiries recommended that medical schools improve outcomes in relation to eating disorders. There is a clear need for all doctors, including GPs, to be able to identify eating disorders and signpost patients to specialist support without delay.  

“The GP minimised my problem due to being a normal weight, I was desperate for help.” 

In a survey conducted by Beat in 2021, 60% of patients with an eating disorder felt they received poor care from their GP and 58% felt that their GP did not understand eating disorders. This has to change. 

All future doctors must have the knowledge and skills to identify when someone is presenting with a potential eating disorder, engage sensitively with them and get them the right help as soon as possible. Beat has published guidance for medical schools on what you should include in your curriculum to prepare future doctors for their inevitable encounters with patients with eating disorders. In collaboration with Health Education England and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, they have also developed a training package which is freely accessible to support you to incorporate this teaching into your curriculum.  

“I had never even considered that an eating disorder was what I was dealing with, but the way I was treated by my GP was how I ended up getting treatment and recovering.” 

We know that well trained doctors can make a life changing difference. Will you commit to ensuring that your medical school truly equips every future doctor you train to identify the early signs and symptoms of an eating disorder and facilitate early intervention? Please help us to end the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders.  

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Radford, Chief Executive, Beat  

Tom Quinn, Director of External Affairs, Beat 

Caroline Price, Director of Services, Beat 

Claire Reynolds, Director of Finance and Resources, Beat 

Philip Roethenbaugh​, Director of Marketing & Income Generation, Beat  

Jess Griffiths, Clinical Director, Beat 

Katherine Pugh, Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs, Beat 

Hajrah Khan, Campaigns Officer, Beat 

Vicky Horne, Campaigns and Engagement Officer, Beat 

Jonathan Kelly, Policy Advisor, Beat 

Dr Agnes Ayton, Consultant Psychiatrist and Chair of the Faculty of Eating Disorders, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Sam Clark-Stone, Lead Clinician at Gloucestershire Eating Disorder Service, Chair of the British Eating Disorders Society and member of Beat Clinical Advisory Group 

Dr Stephen Anderson, Consultant Psychiatrist in Eating Disorders and member of Beat Clinical Advisory Group

Becca Randell, CYP Mental Health Implementation Lead (ARC KSS/KSS AHSN) and member of Beat Clinical Advisory Group

Abigail Cardwell, Occupational Therapist and member of Beat Clinical Advisory Group

 

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