Bristol mother and charity director calling for better support for people with eating disorders
A CLIFTON mother whose daughter successfully battled anorexia is calling for GPs to be better prepared for dealing with patients with eating disorders.
Jane Smith is a director of Anorexia and Bulimia Care (ABC), the charity that supported her when her eldest daughter had her own battle with anorexia as an 11-year-old.
The national charity, based in Wedmore, wants GPs to arrange longer appointments for patients with eating disorders and to know how to speak to them.
This week is eating disorders week and ABC lobbied parliament yesterday for better support for patients with anorexia and bulimia so they get appropriate treatment for their mental health problems.
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Ms Smith first became involved with the charity because she wanted to volunteer for them after her own experiences. She started working on ABC's parent services and helping out on the helpline, then in 2008 was asked to become director.
Her eldest daughter was 11 in 2003 when she started to restrict her eating and lost a third of her body weight in an eight-week period
"It was completely out of the blue," the former teacher said.
"We were a happy family who liked our food and would all sit and eat around the table and there were no issues I could think of.
"My daughter was going through a hard stage at the top of juniors. She was picked on and was coping with overwhelming stress about exams and going up to secondary school.
"Combined with not being able to communicate that very well meant she tried to cope in her own way.
"Thankfully we spotted the signs very early on and had a fantastic GP and fantastic surgery and got the professional help we needed as quickly as possible."
But she knows that some people do not get the same response when they visit their GPs with eating disorders.
"I'm sure GPs want to do their best for their patients but they are hampered by time," she said.
"The UK has one of the highest rates of eating disorders in Europe and more and more people are coming forward, putting pressure on inpatient specialist services.
"That means GPs haven't got anywhere to refer into.
"It is a very difficult illness to diagnose and we don't want to be critical of GPs as I could not have done without my fantastic GP.
"Anorexia is very resistant to treatment and is very complex. Doctors need to build up a lot of trust and take time and GPs don't tend to have that time. But we must do something."
Ms Smith's daughter had to go into hospital to be tube-fed for two weeks while there was a wrangle about which service was most appropriate for her needs because she was too young for an adolescent unit.
"It was terrifying, heart-breaking and exhausting, a mixture of emotions," she said.
Once her daughter was given appropriate treatment she made an "amazing recovery".
"She never looked back and went forward steadily with lots of help along the way."
As well as her work for the charity Ms Smith has written three books about eating disorders and self-harm.
For more information about ABC visit anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk or call the helpline on 03000111213.