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Web 'no substitute for seeing a GP'

A doctor and a patient26/09/13

By Mark Stillman

More than four in 10 people could be endangering their health by delaying visits to the doctor and trusting in the internet instead, warn the authors of a new poll.

Many are defying worrying symptoms and depending on sometimes unreliable digital sources for health information and guidance, the survey of 1,500 people suggests.

Experts claim that such delays can result in patients requiring stronger treatments.

Many people have postponed a visit to the GP

The survey was conducted for The Information Standard, an organisation supported by NHS England.

It discovered 41 per cent of people have postponed visiting their GP despite concerning symptoms.

Over two-thirds (68 per cent) claim this resulted in their ailment persisting or becoming worse.

More than a third (36 per cent) were told by their doctor they should have visited before, a fifth (20 per cent) required a more powerful treatment and 17 per cent were told they had had a fortunate escape.

Over half (55 per cent) of those who deferred a visit to the surgery believed symptoms would improve on their own, while 39 per cent did not want to waste their doctor's time.

As many as 53 per cent, mostly women, of those who delayed visiting their GP had also studied their symptoms on the internet, and others attempted to treat themselves at home.

Self-diagnosing a concern

Ann Robinson, director of public awareness for The Information Standard, which certifies health and care groups as trusted sources of information, said: "Our concern is that people are admitting to self-diagnosing and self-treating in the meantime.

"Unreliable health information in these circumstances could then have a detrimental effect on their health.

"If people are looking for health information, they should make sure it's trustworthy so that they can make a fully informed and safe decision.

"Our advice is simple; look out for The Information Standard quality mark on health websites and leaflets - if you can see the mark then you can feel confident that the information you're reading is reliable."

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