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Woman who has suffered anorexia for 30 years criticises eating disorder service for sending patients to GPs

PUBLISHED: 16:48 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:48 11 April 2019

Sarah Middleton, who has suffered with anorexia for 30 years, raised concerns about eating disorder patients being sent to GPs. Photo: Neil Didsbury

Sarah Middleton, who has suffered with anorexia for 30 years, raised concerns about eating disorder patients being sent to GPs. Photo: Neil Didsbury

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A woman who has suffered with anorexia for more than 30 years has criticised the county’s eating disorder service for sending patients to GPs.

Frank Sims, chief officer of North and South Norfolk CCG. Picture: NHS North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning GroupFrank Sims, chief officer of North and South Norfolk CCG. Picture: NHS North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group

Sarah Middleton, 62, from Norwich, spoke out at the county council’s health and overview scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday, which discussed Norfolk Community Eating Disorder Service’s (NCEDS) approach in deciding which patients could receive treatment.

Since November, NCEDS, which is run by Cambridge and Peterborough Foundation Trust (CPFT), has only been able to provide treatment to patients with an eating disorder deemed as severe. This is partly determined by their body mass index (BMI) falling below 15kg.

Patients that are not provided treatment are referred to primary care services, such as GPs.

But Ms Middleton, who was diagnosed with anorexia in her 20s, told the committee that GPs were not best placed to deal with eating disorders and that many patients are left feeling like they are not worthy of treatment.

She said: “My BMI is in between the two criteria, either I put on weight to get one side of support, which is very difficult for someone with an eating disorder, or I have permission to lose weight in order to receive treatment.

“I’ve got a fantastic GP but she is not a specialist. I almost feel sorry for her, she’s desperate to help me but doesn’t know what to do with me.”
Ms Middleton said GPs could only deal with the eating aspect of a disorder and not the psychological problems.

She added: “If I was going down she wouldn’t necessarily recognise it because it won’t show on the scales.”

The restriction of NCEDS only taking on new patients with a severe eating disorder was regarded a temporary emergency measure, due to the shortage of trained specialist staff, and this is hoped to be lifted by July.

Chief officer of North and South Norfolk CCGs, Frank Sims, insisted there were other aspects and not just BMI that determined whether a patient could receive treatment through NCEDS.

“Any individual referred into the service go through a triage process - they go into the service because they meet the criteria or they go back to the GP with a bespoke personal plan, and they are not just left hanging in the service,” he said.

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