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Beat wants to ensure every person in Wales can access the help they need

Over two thirds of people with an eating disorder felt that their GP did not know how to help them, writes Jo Whitfield, Beat's National Officer for Wales.

This is a key finding from a new survey by Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, which we ran for Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW).

We surveyed almost 1,700 people across the UK who have or have had an eating disorder and asked questions about their experiences with healthcare professionals.

We discovered that 92% of survey respondents felt their GP could benefit from more eating disorder training. 67% felt that opportunities to identify and intervene their eating disorder were missed.

Whilst we know that GPs and healthcare staff are working incredibly hard to support the 60,000 people in Wales with an eating disorder, they can’t do so without quality training.

Beat is calling for all medical schools to implement comprehensive training on eating disorders so that all doctors, including GPs, are able to identify eating disorders and signpost patients to specialist support without delay.

A doctor takes notes in an appointment with her patient

Why is this campaign important?

Currently there is no requirement to provide medical students with any eating disorder training in the UK, with the average student receiving less than two hours throughout their degree.

A fifth of medical schools do not provide any training at all.

Those who had positive experiences with their GP discussed how important this was for their recovery from an eating disorder.

We know that accessing specialist support at the earliest opportunity leads to the best chance of making a full recovery, and it’s so important that people feel comfortable when speaking about their illness to a healthcare professional.

The rise in demand

The need for quality medical school training has become even more urgent.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, at Beat we provided over 220% more support sessions for people affected by eating disorders in Wales, in comparison to before the pandemic.

We know from the people we support that many have experienced increased anxiety and isolation during Covid-19, and sadly demand for eating disorder support is continuing to rise across the nation.

A Zoom call taking place with a woman on screen while a person takes notes

Transforming treatment

To support every person with an eating disorder in Wales, it’s essential that every doctor has the tools they need to understand these serious mental illnesses and signpost to treatment.

But it’s also crucial that the Government and NHS continue to make improvements to eating disorder services so that quality support is available to all.

Earlier this year, myself and my colleagues at Beat published a report investigating the progress made since the Welsh Eating Disorder Service Review in 2018.

We found that whilst some progress had been made, the quality and availability of services is still a postcode lottery.

To help ensure that eating disorder services are transformed across the nation, Beat created five recommendations for the Welsh Government and NHS.

It was encouraging to see that the Plaid Cymru Debate about eating disorders on 2nd March 2022 called for an end to the variation in services across Wales and highlighted the importance of the changes that Beat is calling for.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Welsh Government and policy makers, to ensure that people with eating disorders can always access the support that they need.

About Beat

If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s health, Beat’s Welsh helpline is open 365 days a year from 9am to midnight on weekdays, and 4pm to midnight on weekends and bank holidays.

Call 0808 801 0433 or email 


Read more

Jo Whitfield

Jo is the National Officer for Wales at Beat, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity.

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