People with eating disorders are to receive improved care and support thanks to a ground-breaking scheme adopted by GP practices in North Norfolk and rural Broadland.
The package of improvements has been drawn up by North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to ensure that all clinical staff at its 19 member surgeries – including practice nurses and GPs – are fully trained to care for patients with conditions such as anorexia and bulimia.
The scheme – which is the first of its type in the UK – will guarantee that every patient diagnosed with an eating disorder who requires ongoing specialist physical health monitoring will have that monitoring carried out locally by their own GP practice.
Under the new measures, doctors will work closely with the Norfolk Community Eating Disorder Service (NCEDS) to which all patients will be referred for expert care, advice and support.
Medical practices will then:
Provide physical monitoring of all patients in accordance with a NCEDS assessment of their individual needs
Ensure that every patient has an individual monitoring plan drawn up by NCEDS that includes full details of any treatment they require
Nominate a GP who will undergo specialist training from NCEDS and then pass on this knowledge and expertise to his or her team
Ensure that all staff providing any aspect of care under the scheme has all the necessary training and skills required
Produce and maintain an up-to-date register of all patients receiving care under the scheme
Refer patients promptly to other services and support agencies if and when appropriate
The measures also include the launch of a new dedicated advice line that will give GPs direct access to NCEDS – along with an agreed time limit for a response.
Dr Penny Ayling, a GP in Aylsham and Reepham and the CCG’s clinical lead on mental health, said the new measures were drawn up after discussions between doctors and NCEDS.
“The aim is to provide a safe, sustainable and shared care arrangement involving NCEDS and GPs which will ensure patients receive joined up psychological support and physical monitoring,” she said.
“GPs and NCEDS felt the previous shared care arrangements needed strengthening. The care of eating disorder patients can be complex but the new scheme will ensure that GPs feel confident and supported to carry out their part.
“As commissioners, it gives us confidence that patients in North Norfolk will in future benefit from a much more comprehensive, consistent approach which will guarantee that their psychological and physical wellbeing is closely monitored.”
Jaco Serfontein, a consultant psychiatrist and lead clinician at NCEDS, said the measures adopted by North Norfolk CCG were very welcome and would deliver improved care for patients.
“This new set-up will ensure that there is more expertise in the surgeries and allow patients to have their health monitored locally on a regular basis by the GP who knows them best,” he said.
“It also provides for shared care, allowing us at NCEDS to work more closely with the medical practices – that is the best possible local solution for our patients in North Norfolk.”
Dr Serfontein said the North Norfolk scheme had already prompted interest from the Royal College of Psychiatrists and from GPs in Northern Ireland who were keen to learn from its example.
“We are hoping that this enhanced care arrangement will be replicated, not only across Norfolk but elsewhere in the UK; the issues we are dealing with are not unique to this area,” he said.