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Recognising and managing Medical Emergencies in Eating Disorders

The Royal College of Psychiatrists issues new guidance on how to respond to Medical Emergencies in Eating Disorders.

The guidance is based on an Expert Working Group's advice and recommendations, providing a comprehensive overview of the latest evidence associated with eating disorder. The report highlights the importance and role of healthcare professionals from right across the spectrum recognising their responsibilities in this area.

The aim of this guidance is to make preventable deaths due to eating disorders a thing of the past. It is not a comprehensive textbook on eating disorders; rather, it addresses eating disorder presentations likely to lead the patient to an emergency department or a medical/paediatric ward. The emphasis is on medical management, meaning both physical and psychiatric care.

Royal College of Pshychiatrists, May 2022

According to The Royal College of Psychiatrists, eating disorders "can present with life-threatening emergencies often in the emergency department, 26 although such presentations are also seen in primary care, medical and paediatric wards, and mental health treatment settings". The most common problems are known to be undernutrition and/or compensatory behaviours like binge eating, purging and other associated behaviours. 

In the last five years, eating disorder hospital admissions have increased by 84%, the worst affected with a rise of 89% being children and young people with eating disorders. In the case of adults, there has been a 79% increase in the last five years. 

The report provides guidance on the assessment and management of all eating disorders that could become a clinical emergency, as well as provides a risk assessment tool using a traffic light approach. This tool can be applied to all ages. 

To read the full report on Medical emergencies in eating disorders (MEED), including the list of recommenations, visit www.rcpsych.ac.uk

For the opportunity to develop your skills and improve competence in delivering Eating Disorders services, as well as to network with colleagues who are working to improve services, practice and treatment for people who are experiencing Eating Disorders, join Eating Disorders Summit 2022: Improving Access, Treatment & Recovery Outcomes

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