PATIENTS with eating disorders are being put at risk as doctors have a 'serious lack of training' on the conditions, MPs have warned.

A damning report by the government's Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has found doctors were given just a couple of hours on training.

It also found patients were left waiting months for care and the NHS did not have accurate data on the number of patients suffering from eating disorders.

The committee has released its findings into the progress made since an investigation two years ago by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

It had been set up after the death of Averil Hart, a former Colchester Royal Grammar School pupil, and two other women.

Miss Hart, 19, died in December 2012 following a series of failures involving every NHS organisation that cared for her, and the PHSO warned of "widespread problems with adult eating disorders services in the NHS".

In its follow-up report, the committee found "a serious lack" of training for doctors on eating disorders.

It heard of a study which suggests training for doctors amounts to little more than a couple of hours in medical school, and they may focus on using body mass index as the sole indicator of whether treatment should be offered.

Some people with eating disorders face trouble in moving from child to adult care at the age of 18, or from in-patient to community-based services.

There were also unacceptably long-waiting times for adult mental healthcare for patients who were heading from school to university, according to the report.

Some patients faced a postcode lottery with regard to the quality of care they might receive.

MPs also heard that some people were discharged from eating disorder inpatient care after reaching a certain weight, but without a guarantee that their mental health had recovered.

The committee said more should be done to improve eating disorder awareness and understanding among wider healthcare staff.

Sir Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), has urged the Government to adopt "a sense of urgency to stop this problem from spiralling".

He said: "My committee found serious failings in NHS care for people with eating disorders - doctors only receive a couple of hours of training, patients are left waiting for months for care and the NHS doesn't even have accurate data on the number of people suffering from an eating disorder throughout the UK.

"We cannot risk any more avoidable deaths from eating disorders. Eating disorders are complex mental and physical health illnesses and deserve dedicated training, specialist care and a commitment from the NHS to learn from its own mistakes."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "It is vital that anyone with an eating disorder can access specialist treatment as quickly as possible. The NHS Long Term Plan commits to improving community based mental healthcare for adults, including eating disorder services, backed by an additional £2.3 billion every year in real terms by 2023/24.

"We know early intervention is vital - Health Education England is currently working with experts to review training and education resources, to help professionals spot the signs of an eating disorder and act quickly to diagnose and treat it."

Professor Colin Melville, medical director and director of education and standards for the General Medical Council, said: "Eating disorders are a very serious, potentially life-threatening, condition and we want every doctor to be able to spot the warning signs and make sure patients get the best possible care.

'We have been doing all we can to influence positive change; bringing together doctors, students and health leaders to discuss where changes are needed to medical education and delivery of care."

A separate report from the Beat eating disorder charity suggests adults in some parts of England face a postcode lottery in relation to how long they may have to wait for treatment.

It found waiting times at one eating disorder service averaged out at five-and-a-half months, while they were just two weeks at another service.

Nationally, almost one in five adults have to wait for more than four months to begin treatment, according to the charity.

Beat said its report is based on Freedom of Information requests to NHS Trusts in England, as well as qualitative interviews with patients, whose ages ranged from 27 to 41 years old.

Beat chief executive Andrew Radford said: "There must also be investment to ensure that services have the resources to provide specialist treatment as soon as possible for adults.

"Investment now will prevent people becoming more ill, saving lives and saving the NHS money."