Cambridgeshire GP 'lacked support' to help severely anorexic patient

Madeline Wallace Image copyright Wallace family
Image caption Madeline Wallace felt unsupported by staff at the Cullen Centre in Edinburgh

A doctor who treated a severely anorexic woman before her death has told an inquest GPs struggle to treat patients with eating disorders.

Madeline Wallace, 18 required regular monitoring appointments at her GP for blood tests and weight checks.

Dr Rebecca Cotes said more specialist knowledge was needed and raised concerns about whether GPs were insured for that "level of involvement".

Ms Wallace, from Peterborough, died in January 2018 from sepsis.

Dr Cotes told the inquest: "It's not something we're particularly trained to deal with."

She said another doctor at the Thorpe Road practice in Peterborough raised concerns that "we are not funded to do this and potentially not insured to do this, to do this level of involvement."

She said GPs needed specific advice from the eating disorder service on a patient-by-patient basis to make them feel "more supported and safer managing these acutely unwell people."

Image copyright Wallace Family
Image caption A GP who treated Madeline Wallace has said they need more support to help anorexic patients

Dr Cotes, who was Ms Wallace's main GP before her move to university in Edinburgh, said anorexia patients would "ideally" always see the same GP to allow for problems to be spotted early.

Ms Wallace was last seen at her family surgery on 28 December 2017, where she presented with a temperature higher than normal for her, which may have been a sign of infection.

However, the doctor did not consider her temperature to be high as it was within a normal range for a healthy person, the inquest heard.

Following her move to Edinburgh Ms Wallace lost a "significant" amount of weight and felt unsupported by staff at the Cullen Centre in the city, the court was told.

Image copyright WALLACE FAMILY
Image caption Ms Wallace died from sepsis in January 2018

An urgent referral had been requested by clinicians in Cambridgeshire to prevent any gap in treatment for Ms Wallace, but the centre refused it until she registered with a GP in the city.

An adverse incident report for the NHS Lothian Board, following Ms Wallace's death, advised the centre review its policy regarding making appointments for out-of-area referrals.

The inquest continues.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this story, you can talk in confidence to eating disorders charity Beat by calling its adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.

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