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Internet Health Advice Causing More Harm than Good

Misleading and dangerous information available on the internet is causing eating disorders among several patients, according to a health watchdog. //

The NHS Quality Improvement Scotland (NHS QIS) added that the 'myths' available on the web have been increasing the dangers faced by thousands of Scots afflicted with conditions like anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

The first ever guidelines have been issued by the health watch dog for doctors in Scotland on the best practice for treatment of the disease in an effort to streamline services across the country.

Dr Harry Millar, co-chair of the report development group, warned of the need for medical staff to be armed with the correct information and advice for patients and their families.

He said: 'A simple internet search produces over 15 million hits for eating disorders. Some of these sites are simply inaccurate, repeating the myths often associated with the conditions.

'Others, however, are positively dangerous. They encourage eating disorders, recommend ways to subvert care and add to the difficulties faced by people with these conditions. The best ways to counter these sites is with the truth, so by providing high quality information we can knock down the myths and misinformation peddled by these sites.

'We want to make sure that every healthcare professional who deals with eating disorders has access to high quality information and is able to recommend where patients and their families can access that information.'

Estimates have shown that around 83,000 people in Scotland are thought to suffer from eating disorders. Experts warn that the provision of NHS services in Scotland is 'minimal' and there are only two private units for those who require hospitalization.

The guidelines set out by the NHS QIS report have been designed to improve the care of sufferers. It includes communication between professionals, tailoring care to the needs of indiv idual patients, referral to specialist services, and management of long-term eating disorders.

Lewis Macdonald, Deputy Health Minister, said,: 'The new NHS QIS guidance is vital in helping to tackle eating disorders as it sets out clear expectations for the management and treatment of people with these disorders.

'It should lead to more integrated care, improved communication among NHS staff and social work teams and allow special attention to be paid to the needs of children and young people with eating disorders.'

Dr Millar added: 'Central to our approach is that the care for each and every patient or service user should be individualised.

'Almost every person with eating disorders is different, so the care and treatment they receive has to be built round the individual.

'The result of our work is a flexible package of recommendations that will support healthcare professionals in improving the care they deliver.'

Mark Reilly, head of regional support at the Eating Disorders Association added: 'People from Scotland who ring our helpline tell us that their GP hasn't picked up on the problem or that they cannot get treatment.

'Most health boards haven't really done needs assessments so they don't know the scale of the problem and most don't have any provision of services.

'The guidelines are a welcome addition and we hope to see them acted on.

'The best indicator for recovery is people being treated early. It is really important that medical professionals pick up on the problem and (patients) are treated by specialists.'

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