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Women are turning to ‘Dr Google’ for health advice after being ‘fobbed off by GPs’, study shows

  • Women are likely to use Google after GPs wave off their concerns, a survey says
  • Female patients said their symptoms are often ‘not taken seriously or dismissed’
  • 71 per cent of female respondents relied on Google and just 59 per cent on GPs
  • Department of Health research is part of Women’s Health Strategy for England

Women are more likely to rely on Google than their GP for health advice after being repeatedly dismissed, a Government consultation reveals.

Female patients said their symptoms ‘were not taken seriously or dismissed’ and they often had to push for a diagnosis over many years and visits.

If they did secure a diagnosis there were limited opportunities to ask questions about treatment and their preferences were not taken into account.

Respondents said there was a need for ‘better education and training’ on women’s health.

They also called for more specialists and services to treat issues such as menopause and endometriosis.

The Department of Health launched the research in March 2021 for the first-ever Women’s Health Strategy for England, due next month.

Female patients said they resorted to Google after feeling their symptoms ‘were not taken seriously or dismissed’ by healthcare professionals

It yesterday released a summary of the almost 100,000 responses from women, their partners, family and experts.

Some 74 per cent said they relied on family and friends for health information, 71 per cent on Google and just 59 per cent on ‘GPs or other healthcare professionals’.

And 84 per cent said there had been times when they or the woman they had in mind were not listened to by health workers.

Furthermore, almost three in four people (74 per cent) thought the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative effect on women’s access to healthcare services.

The report says: ‘Alongside general barriers experienced, such as a lack of GP appointments and limited access to mental health services, some women also reported delays to female cancer screening services and inadequate support during and post pregnancy.’

The main topics women want ministers to include in their strategy are gynecological conditions; fertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and postnatal support; the menopause; menstrual health; and mental health.

Less than one in five (17 per cent) said they have enough information on menstrual wellbeing, 14 per cent have enough information on gynecological cancers and 9 per cent have enough information on menopause.

Suggestions for improving the quality and availability of information include the use of ‘women’s health hubs’ and drop-in centers and better sex and health education at school.

Women in the survey suggested GPs should have better education and training in how they listen to, communicate with and treat women.

They are also called for better support for the likes of menopause, chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome.

Many said the location and distance of services had impeded their ability to access them, while others felt ‘let down’ by the length of waiting lists.

One woman said: ‘Waiting lists are too long. Waiting upwards of 9 months just to see a gynecologist, then face a wait of 12 months or more for surgery. Feels like wasting my life away waiting for treatment. ‘

The report highlights that a large volume of women were unable to book or access GP appointments – particularly through the system of calling on the same day to book a last-minute slot.

‘Trying to get a GP appointment is almost impossible,’ one woman said. ‘Not everyone can call at 8am in the morning and keep ringing to get through.’

The issue of menopause and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was also a common theme, with one woman saying she was forced to attend a private menopause clinic because her GP was ‘unable to address my condition’.

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