25/02/2014 12:58 GMT | Updated 27/04/2014 06:59 BST

Recovery From Eating Disorders: The Crucial Role of the GP and Diagnosis

In case you were unaware it's Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) - a time to raise awareness, improve access to treatment and challenge the stigma associated with eating disorders.This key week is an opportunity for charities and activists to speak out and take action.

Despite advances in awareness in the past few years, it's evident that eating disorders is a growing issue in 2014. With the term 'silent epidemic' often being used to describe the current situation, I'm inclined to agree this is unfortunately the case. The number of sufferers is getting to crisis proportions and no sign of a reversal in the numbers of those affected anytime soon.

Recent findings Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show hospitals have seen an 8% rise in admissions in the past year - the latest in a series of reports highlighting this worrying trend. The figures shown that young people in-particular are at risk of developing eating disorders and much younger than ever before including children. What's most troubling is the statistics only count those who are diagnosed but what about those who are engaged in outpatient care in the community? Worse still, those who are unable to seek diagnosis or fall short of the criteria?

Last week, it was reported NHS is failing thousands of patients with eating disorders who are being turned away by doctors because their condition is not deemed 'serious enough'. The majority of whom are dismissed with the diagnosis 'Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified' (or EDNOS) often meaning sufferers have to wait longer for treatment. Most alarmingly is that some had waited for for eight months before seeking treatment when they were severely ill.

Now, it's easy to point the finger at GPs for not picking up on the signs but are they really to blame? Currently, doctors have no training on eating disorders as part of their seven-year degree. They have approximately 10 minutes - if that - with each patient and hardly sufficient to investigate a patient presenting the symptoms. GPs can only do their best depending on education and the resources available.

This is why I applaud Cosmopolitan magazine for partnering with Beat to address the issue. The magazine urgently wants GPs to review their assessment of sufferers.

Louise Court, the editor-in-chief, explained: "EDNOS sufferers ... are seriously ill. The NHS is amazing in so many ways, but at the same time, it's failing so many women - and men - who desperately need help now, not in a year's time. We're therefore urging GPs to move away from the ethos of merely ticking boxes when it comes to assessing eating disorders."

Cosmopolitan make the controversial statement in their online poster that no doctor would turn away a cancer patient until their illness got worse. It follows by saying this is happening to thousands of women - though shame about the omission of men!

The joint campaign includes an open letter published on the Cosmopolitanwebsite. this week to coinscide with EDAW. It states: "Eating disorders cost the economy £1.25billion a year, and catching them early could save the NHS huge amounts of crucial funds.

We're all too aware of the difficult position GPs are in. The tools used to diagnose eating disorders are outdated, and hundreds of patients are seen by each GP every week."

GPs are expected to know every health issue that every patient comes out with and deal with promptly and appropriately. To be fair, it's an unrealistic expectation that we expect them to instantly recognise and diagnosis eating disorders in short consultation??? We must understand the reality that the sufferer as well as the GP takes responsibility for ensuring that the sufferer receives a diagnosis and referral to treatment services.

The individual can recover from an eating disorder when they are ready. Telling your GP that you want to make the change is the first steps to recovery...

For more information about getting support or supporting someone who you think has an eating disorder go to:

Beat provides helplines for adults and young people which offer support and information to sufferers, carers and professionals. For telephone numbers and opening times go to: