Research Reveals Mums Turning To Google Before GP

Mums Searching Symptoms Online Rather Than Visiting Doctors


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Mums are more likely to turn to Google or their mother for advice on a sick child than their GP, a study revealed yesterday (28/07/2014).

Researchers found that many named their mum or the internet as their first port of call for advice on children’s health issues – ahead of their GP.

Not wanting to bother their GP unnecessarily, finding it hard to get through on the phone and feeling like they will only get fobbed off means mums avoid contacting their doctor until they really need to.

It also emerged that people are just as likely to trust their mum when their child is suffering from a rash or high temperature as their local doctor.

Lisa Jordan, a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, which commissioned the survey, said:

Expert Opinion
There was a time when the GP was the first person we turned to whenever we had a medical concern. And that doctor would most likely know you personally and be familiar with you and your family’s health.

"But now, people rarely see the same doctor each time they visit a surgery, let alone get an appointment with their actual GP.

"As a result, our reliance on our local doctor is falling and it seems we are turning to someone closer to us like our mums.

"The NHS carries out great work and doctors save lives on a daily basis, but it seems many people are losing confidence without a familiar doctor, a struggle to get an appointment and medical staff who are coping with more people than ever to treat. There are real patient safety concerns about the resources available to the NHS and it appears to be driving patients to look elsewhere for expert medical advice – which could prove to be very dangerous.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner

The study of 2,000 mums found that just one in five said their first port of call would be their doctor if they or their child were ill.

Instead, 29 per cent would ask their mum for advice, while another 26 per cent would rely on the internet for guidance on what they should do about the symptoms.

But the delay in turning to a doctor could prove costly with 16 per cent of mums admitting their child has become more seriously ill because they put off seeing a medical profession after a previous bad experience.

Twenty-eight per cent of mums even said typing symptoms into Google is the first thing they do when their child complains of being ill, with rashes, high temperatures and vomiting the most common searches in this situation.

While 58 per cent of mums said they turn to others ahead of their doctor because they don’t want to bother their GP unless it’s necessary, three in ten say they fall down the list because it’s difficult to get through to them.

Another one in ten feel like their doctor doesn’t listen to them while another 14 per cent believe they will  get fobbed off.

Other reasons for turning to others over their GP include long waiting times, poor availability of appointments and having an unsympathetic doctor.

Researchers have also found that 41 per cent of mums have questioned a doctor’s diagnosis of their child because it was different to what Google had suggested.

And another 38 per cent have sought a second opinion for this reason.

The study also found that just four in ten always rely on their doctor’s advice, with 56 per cent claiming they rely more on the opinions of their mum, or other mums.

Almost one in ten even claim to trust the internet over anyone else.

Concerns were also raised about not being taken seriously and having a wrong diagnosis in the past.

Worryingly, 58 per cent of mums have been made to feel like a paranoid mother after visiting their doctor with their child. And 61 per cent of mums feel like they have been brushed off by their GP after visiting them with an ill child.

Lisa Jordan at Irwin Mitchell, added:

Expert Opinion
We do unfortunately see cases where parents, especially mothers, have been convinced about how serious their child’s illness is but have struggled to persuade their doctor to take action.

“While doctors and nurses should always be the first point of call for any illness or injury concerns, patients do have the right to ask questions and challenge their treatment or that of their children if they are worried by what they might have read elsewhere on the internet or heard from others.

“The problem with advice over the internet is that it can be difficult to verify how appropriate or accurate the diagnosis is and there is a wealth of information that is out of date or just plain wrong. Doctors undergo years of training to be able to carry out their jobs but if they are overworked and under pressure this can of course lead to mistakes.

“Patient safety needs to be the number one priority of all healthcare providers but our research shows that there is discontent amongst the general public about how they access healthcare resources. There have been recent studies looking into opening longer hours or at weekends but GP surgeries need to be given the resources to be able to do this without compromising the quality of treatment.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner

Top ten children’s symptoms/illnesses to Google

1. Rashes
2. High temperature
3. Vomiting
4. Diarrhoea
5. Ear pain
6. Coughing
7. Stomach ache
8. Poor appetite
9. Sore throat
10. Swelling

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Medical Negligence Claims and GP Negligence Claims.