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Eating disorder inquests : Anorexia ignorance 'major concern'

image copyrightJustice4Averil
image captionAveril Hart went to the University of East Anglia in Norwich to study creative writing

There is a high level of ignorance from clinicians about eating disorders across the UK, a top mental health boss told an inquest.

Prof Tim Kendall, NHS England's national clinical director for mental health, told the inquest of Averil Hart it was a "major concern".

He suggested that a national annual audit of eating disorder related deaths may help in future treatment plans.

Miss Hart, 19, died from anorexia complications in 2012.

The student from Newton in Suffolk, began a creative writing course at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich in September 2012, having left the eating disorder unit at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge in August after a 10-month admission.

She died days after collapsing at university.


Assistant coroner Sean Horstead, who has led five inquests connected to anorexia including Miss Hart's, was hearing evidence in relation to a possible prevention of future deaths report.

He said he had heard evidence of a "real continuing shortfall and appreciation of anorexia" from GPs to nurses and even among senior hospital consultants across multiple inquests of anorexia patients.

"There is an ignorance of knowledge" about the illness he said and questioned Prof Kendall on whether he was concerned by that.

"It remains a major concern from my point of view," he said.

image copyrightJustice4Averil
image captionAveril Hart's father called his daughter "incredibly intelligent"

Prof Kendall said "a lot of GPs, a lot of consultants don't really understand mental health" which "worried" him.

"Arguably ignorance around eating disorders is even a step worse than other aspects of mental health", he added.

Only 40% of foundation doctors have had at least four months of psychiatric training over their two years the inquest heard.

Prof Kendall said work to secure funding for an annual audit of eating disorder related deaths across England was under way, with funding for one secured.

"Possibly this is the most important thing we can do at this point in time," he said.

The inquest at Peterborough continues.

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  • Eating disorder inquest: 'Systemic failures' in Averil Hart's hospital care