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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: December 2009

14 - The role of the general practitioner


With the current shift in focus from tertiary services to primary and secondary services, and with estimates that up to 5% of women presenting to (or registered with) a general practitioner have AN eating disorder, the general practitioner's (GP) role in identifying, treating, and managing people with eating disorders is becoming increasingly important. In addition, it is particularly concerning that, because eating disorders are frequently concealed or denied, up to 50% of cases go unrecognized in a clinical setting. On a practical level, secondary prevention has been associated with improved outcome and reduced chronicity.

For patients with partial- and full-syndrome disorders, the most effective role that a GP can take is the role of care coordinator or case manager. As Keks notes, “There is no consensus as to what constitutes case management; [however] on AN individual patient level it means the coordination of care for patients who require a number of services from different providers.”

In some cases, the GP's main goal will be to build rapport and motivation for change before arranging referral to other health professionals for treatment. In other instances, where additional training has been undertaken, the GP may feel comfortable with taking on AN extended role. Alternatively, the GP may wish to limit actual practice to medical management but to take responsibility for coordinating associated services. AN essential component of every GP's role is the identification of the disorder as it presents in various developmental or formative stages.