College sets record straight on GP training on eating disorders

Responding to a survey by Beat, the eating disorders charity, Dr Gary Howsam, Vice Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the following.

“For most people with mental health issues, including eating disorders, their GP will be their first port of call when seeking help and this is a responsibility GPs take very seriously.

“It is not the case that GPs have little or no training to identify potential eating disorders in patients and refer appropriately. On completion of medical school, and after two further years of post-graduate 'foundation years' training, GP trainees then undertake a three-year specialty training in order to practise independently as a GP in the UK. As part of this, through examination and continuous assessment, they must demonstrate competence of the entire GP curriculum, which has a significant focus on mental health, including eating disorders.

“Once fully qualified, GPs will also undertake continued professional development throughout their career, and are required to reflect the whole curriculum in this learning. We would welcome further training resources to support GPs to identify and care for patients with eating disorders - and to this end, the RCGP has worked with partners, including Anorexia Bulimia Care, to develop such courses.

“It is nevertheless distressing to see so many patients with eating disorders report having a poor experience of healthcare. What is needed in order for GPs to provide the best possible care for patients with eating disorders, is being able to spend more time with our patients. Eating disorders, indeed all mental health conditions, are complex - they may also not be the primary reason a patient has made an appointment to see their GP - and the standard 10-minute appointment is inadequate for GPs to have the necessary conversations with patients. This is why the College has been calling for GP appointments to be a minimum of 15 minutes as standard. But offering longer appointments means offering fewer and patients already report having to wait too long to access GP care.

"We urgently need more GPs, and other members of the practice team including mental health therapists, working in NHS general practice, so that we can offer longer consultations for those patients who need them - and we need better access to appropriate MH services in the community. The Government must make good on its promise of 6,000 more GPs and 26,000 other members of the practice team as a matter of urgency.”

Further information

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RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
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Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.