Referral patterns to a specialist eating disorder service: the impact of the referrer's gender



There is some evidence that the characteristics of general practitioners (GPs) and of the services that they operate influence the likelihood of referring patients to specialist eating disorder services. The aim of this study was to determine whether the gender of the GP is associated with referral rates for different eating disorders. The sample was a retrospective case series of 93 patients, referred to a specialist eating disorder service by local GPs. Associations between GP gender and clinical characteristics of the patients were determined using chi-squared tests and t-tests. Patients with binge eating disorder were substantially more likely to be referred by female GPs, while other atypical cases were more likely to be referred by male GPs. There was no evidence that the patients referred by male GPs differed in clinical presentation from those referred by female GPs. Clinical hypotheses are advanced to explain these biases in the referral practices of male and female clinicians. There is a need for greater education of GPs about the importance of identifying atypical eating disorders and treating them appropriately. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.