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In a report on NHS care for patients with eating disorders, MPs have found that there is a lack of understanding of eating disorders among doctors which is resulting in too many avoidable deaths.
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee claims that training on eating disorders in medical schools is limited to ‘just a few hours’ and that medical staff, and GPs in particular, need significantly more training on the nature of anorexia nervosa and the behaviours that sufferers may display.
PACAC’s inquiry into NHS care for patients with eating disorders also identifies a series of failings from the NHS to act on recommendations for improving care for patients with eating disorders to avoid unnecessary deaths.
MPs and campaigners say that more than a million people have an eating disorder, but specialist help is often difficult to access. Around three-quarters of that figure are female. Whilst improvements had been made to children's services, adult care remains more problematic, the report claims.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, chair of the committee, said: “My committee found serious failings in NHS care for people with eating disorders – doctors only receive a couple of hours of training, patients are left waiting for months for care and the NHS doesn’t even have accurate data on the number of people suffering from an eating disorder throughout the UK.
“We cannot risk any more avoidable deaths from eating disorders. Eating disorders are complex mental and physical health illnesses and deserve dedicated training, specialist care and a commitment from the NHS to learn from its own mistakes. It’s been nearly two years since the PHSO reported on how NHS eating disorder services are failing patients. The government needs to adopt a sense of urgency to stop this problem from spiralling, and my committee is calling for swift action to address deficiencies in care.”