Turning eating disorders screening in primary practice into treatment: A clinical practice approach

Tracey D. Wade, Catherine Johnson, Kath Cadman, Lesley Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Objective: The rate of screening for eating disorders (EDs) by general practitioners (GPs) in primary health care is low. We examined an approach to increase screening and the impact on referrals. Method: Low cost assessment/treatment pathways were established in February 2019 for patients with an ED. Between October 2020 and June 2021 information was sent to GP practices about screening for EDs, along with provision of an online screening tool and training. Results: Of the 44 GP practices invited to participate in the screening initiative, 42 (95.5%) agreed. Only 12 (27%) had referred patients before the initiative, 53 patients over 19 months (2.8/month). Over the 10-month initiative 90 patients were referred and started treatment from 50% of the practices (8.2/month); 73 (81%) had an ED and six had disordered eating but not an ED. Qualitative feedback from GPs suggested they would not screen for a condition if there were no readily identifiable treatment pathway available. Discussion: Results suggest that the three elements of the initiative (provision of assessment and treatment pathways, access to a screening tool, provision of information on screening) increased the likelihood that GPs would use a screening tool, leading to an almost three-fold increase in referrals. Public Significance: An initiative used to translate screening for an eating disorder to treatment in primary health care had three components. First, provision of an easy referral process to assessment as well as treatment. Second, screening tools were made available on computer desktops. Third, information and training provided to GPs was used to support their clinical observation and increase confidence in initiating screening. Adoption of this initiative almost tripled referrals for assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1259-1263
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number9
Early online date12 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • early identification
  • general practice
  • primary health
  • qualitative
  • screening


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