June 18: GPs will be provided with free online training to help them better identify and treat Australians with eating disorders as part of a $211,000 program delivered in partnership with the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC).

The Eating Disorder Core Skills: eLearning for GPs will provide additional resources so that GPs are better equipped to identify and provide coordinated care to Australians experiencing an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have devastating impacts on those affected and their families and carers. It is estimated that at any given time around one million Australians have an eating disorder, but that less than a quarter of those with an eating disorder receive a diagnosis.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said the Government was deeply committed to helping Australians affected by eating disorders and body image issues.

“The training provides GPs with the key information they need to identify the signs of an eating disorder, so they provide the best care and support to patients,” Minister Hunt said.

“We know that eating disorders are extremely complex illnesses. However the good news is that full recovery is possible with timely and appropriate care. This new training will better equip GPs to deliver that care, connecting people with the best treatment and on-going support.”

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, David Coleman, said GPs are crucial in the early detection of, and intervention for, eating disorders.

“GPs are often the first touch point in the health care system for someone with an eating disorder which means it is vitally important we provide them with the tools and knowledge they need to provide appropriate care and support,” Assistant Minister Coleman said.

“Being able to identify the signs of an eating disorder early and knowing the right language to use can be the difference in a patient opening up and receiving on-going care – and that’s exactly what this training has been designed to do.”

The online training, which is accredited by the Royal Australian College of GPs includes five self-paced modules.

The NEDC is an initiative of the Morrison Government dedicated to developing and implementing a nationally consistent, evidence-based system of care for the prevention and treatment of eating disorders.

In addition to this initiative, the Morrison Government is delivering a number of vital measures to ensure continuity of care and access to high quality treatment and support for people affected by eating disorders and their families and carers.

Last week Assistant Minister Coleman opened Wandi Nerida – Australia’s first residential eating disorder treatment facility on the Sunshine Coast. The 13-bed facility will provide individualised and phased care – in a home-like environment – that patients will be able to continue when they return home.

The Morrison Government has committed $63 million for an additional six residential eating disorder treatment centres to be built across Australia.

In November 2019, the Government provided $110.7 million to introduce 64 new Medicare items for eating disorders. These items enable patients with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders with complex needs to access up to 40 psychological and 20 dietetic services a year.

Building on these landmark investments, as part of the historic $2.3 billion investment into mental health and suicide prevention, the 2021-22 Budget included $26.9 million over four years to increase the availability and quality of care options for people affected by eating disorders.

This includes:

  • $1.9 million to improve access to specific timely, high quality care for eating disorders in Australian Government funded mental health centres such as Headspace and Adult Mental Health Centres;
  • $300,000 to enable Eating Disorders Families Australia to continue operation of the “strive” program, providing mental health support for families and carers of people with eating disorders;
  • $2.5 million to deliver the final phase of the workforce credentialing project to ensure all Australians have access to high quality care delivered under the Medicare eating disorder items; and
  • $13 million to establish a National Eating Disorder Research Centre to coordinate and conduct world-leading research into eating disorders.

The funding reinforces the Morrison Government’s strong commitment to achieving better mental health for all Australians, with expenditure on mental health services expected to be a record of $6.5 billion in 2021-22 alone.

Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Butterfly Foundations ED HOPE helpline (1800 33 4673), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), Beyond Blue (1300 224 636), Lifeline (13 11 14), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.