A recent article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) highlighted a United Kingdom (UK) parliamentary report indicating that avoidable deaths are occurring due to lack of physician training about eating disorders in the National Health System (NHS). An investigation by the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee found that eating disorder training is limited to only a few hours during medical school.
The Committee called for improved training in medical school and for current general practitioners to better recognize eating disorders. The Academy for Eating Disorders welcomes this report as an opportunity to address better training among physicians around eating disorders.
Dr. Ashish Kumar, President of the European Chapter of the Academy for Eating Disorders, and Faculty of Eating Disorders at The Royal College of Psychiatrists, stated:
These reports highlight the serious lack of training among the frontline doctors (such as family physicians, pediatricians and accident and emergency doctors) who are involved in the care of eating disorder patients." These thoughts were echoed by Dr. Christine Peat, Director of the National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders (NCEED), who stated "The piece in the BMJ highlights the importance of providing education and training on eating disorders throughout the medical education pipeline, but particularly among medical students and residents so that physicians are equipped to detect and manage eating disorders in their practices. The National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders is thrilled to be working on such efforts and is ready to learn from the educational endeavors of our counterparts in the UK."
The report also outlined that the NHS did not currently have precise data on the prevalence of eating disorders and that many physicians in the UK have a dangerous overreliance on body mass index (BMI) to diagnose an eating disorder, leading to vast underdiagnosis and delayed care for the majority of people with eating disorders. In response to the report, Dr. Kumar noted, "We hope and urge that the governments across the world and the World Health Organisation (WHO) will… help in improving care for patients with eating disorders and saving lives. This can be achieved by improving teaching and training of medical, nursing, dietetic, psychological and other allied professionals."
Thornton, J. (2019) Lack of training in eating disorders is contributing to avoidable deaths, MPs conclude. BMJ. doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l4279.