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All health professionals, wherever they serve, will come across people with eating disorders in their day-to-day clinical work. These are complex illnesses, with high levels of morbidity and mortality. They create significant emotional distress, affect relationships and the ability to function in society. They have an impact upon the person’s education and employment - and in many cases, they can be a real threat to life.
It is now over five years since the UK's Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman published the report 'Ignoring the alarms: How NHS eating disorder services are failing patients' (PHSO, 2017). Having carefully investigated the tragic death of Averil Hart, as a result of anorexia nervosa, and having identified multiple times when her life could have been saved, the PHSO report called for more training on eating disorders for health professionals.
Since then, much has been done to equip eating disorder specialists. But much more work is required to equip all healthcare and allied health professionals, who will come across eating disorders in their day-to-day clinical work.
Above: The ABCDE approach, for spotting the signs of an eating disorder. Credit: Dr Elizabeth McNaught, Family Mental Wealth (reproduced with permission).
As Professor Janet Treasure, a world-renowned expert on the subject, says:
"All health professionals will come across eating disorders. Recognising and managing these devastating disorders requires a team with all types of clinicians who play their part, bringing different types of expertise at different times to help the person."
So, Family Mental Wealth, in collaboration with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, has created an eLearning course , suitable for all healthcare and allied health professionals.
Dr Elizabeth McNaught, Medical Director of Family Mental Wealth - who herself has lived-experience of an eating disorder in her teenage years - says: "Our vision is that all healthcare and allied health professionals, whatever their specialty, will develop vital knowledge and skills to play an appropriate role in recognising, managing, and supporting specialist treatment for eating disorders."
This continuing professional development (CPD)-certified eLearning is based upon the textbook ‘Eating Disorders: An Oxford Specialist Handbook’ (Oxford University Press, 2022); it is presented by Prof Janet Treasure and Dr Elizabeth McNaught, two of the textbook authors.
The eLearning has been reviewed positively by representatives of a wide range of healthcare and allied health professionals, as well as organisations that support families caring for a loved one with an eating disorder. Jenny Langley, of New Maudsley Carers, says:
"Having supported families for nearly 15 years, one of the biggest frustrations that I see, is when there is a lack of understanding outside of the specialist eating disorder teams."
The eLearning is in 13 bite-sized modules, each drawing upon a chapter of the Oxford University Press textbook. Each module comprises a video of Prof Janet Treasure and Dr Elizabeth McNaught, an animated case story, a downloadable summary of the textbook chapter, and an 'assessment of learning' quiz - culminating in a personalised CPD certificate, accredited by the CPD Certification Service.
Develop a foundational understanding of the nature, presentation and diagnostic criteria of all seven different types of eating disorders covered in the DSM-5, plus three emerging eating disorder diagnoses, illustrated by animated case stories.
Be equipped for conducting or supporting, within your own day-to-day clinical work, effective history-taking (applying the ABCDE approach), examination and investigations of any patient who might have an eating disorder.
Develop a foundational understanding of a wide range of biological, psychological and social risk factors, which can predispose, precipitate, or perpetuate an eating disorder.
Develop a foundational understanding of related comorbidities and complications of eating disorders.
Be equipped to identify and respond appropriately to medical emergencies in eating disorders, within your own day-to-day clinical work, as covered in the Royal College of Psychiatrists MEED guidelines.
Understand appropriate compliance with confidentiality, capacity and application of the Mental Health Act in relation to eating disorders.
Be equipped to play an appropriate role in supporting specialist treatment, through your own day-to-day clinical work.
Those who have already used this eLearning have commented:
"The videos were short but included an amazing amount of information."
"The style means you can dip in and out according to available time."
"The case stories give really helpful context."
"I love the Book Bite downloadable summaries that I can refer to later."
References / Further reading
Access eLearning : Family Mental Wealth (2023) Health Professionals (online). Available from: https://familymentalwealth.com/HealthProfessionals/. Accessed 13 June 2023.
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (2023) Ignoring the alarms: How NHS eating disorder services are failing patients (online). Available from: https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/publications/ignoring-alarms-how-nhs-eating-disorder-services-are-failing-patients. Accessed 13 June 2023.
South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (2023) Eating Disorders (online). Available from: https://slam.nhs.uk/eating-disorders-condition. Accessed 13 June 2023.
Treasure, J., McNaught, E. and Pollard, N. (2022) Eating Disorders: An Oxford Specialist Handbook. Oxford University Press. Available from: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/eating-disorders-9780198855583?cc=ee&lang=en&. Accessed 13 June 2023.
Verywell Health (2022) What Is an Eating Disorder? (online). Available from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/eating-disorder-5200354. Accessed 13 June 2023.