Telly belly Brits mirror soap sickness say 95% of GPs

Article date: 21 April 2005

More than nine in 10 (95%) GPs claim their patients aremimicking the illnesses suffered by their favourite soap stars, TVpresenters and news readers by reporting symptoms based on whatthey’ve seen and read.

Norwich Union Healthcare’s study of more than 200 GPs and1,000 consumers also found that nearly two-thirds (60%) of GPsthink the increasing number of medical issues covered by soaps,lifestyle programmes such as Richard and Judy, newspapersand magazines are making their patients paranoid. Blanket coverageof the hospital superbug MRSA, Eastender DotCotton’s struggle with cancer and Russell Owen’s battlewith testicular cancer in Hollyoaks are the types of storythat are causing concern.

The exposure is encouraging patients to self-diagnose by seekingadvice from friends and family before speaking to their GPs. Nearlynine in 10 GPs (87%) claim their patients arrive at an appointmenthaving already decided on their diagnosis. A further two-thirds(68%) claim this conclusion has been derived by the patient on theadvice of friends and family.

And consumers agree - those questioned put talking to friendsand family top of the list for giving them advice when trying tomake a self-diagnosis (29%) ahead of medical books and literature(19%), NHS Direct (11%) and the internet (9%).

Dr Doug Wright, research author at Norwich Union Healthcaresays: "The media has a really beneficial role in raising awarenessabout significant healthcare issues and this should not beunderestimated. Many topics featured can strike a chord with thepublic by highlighting the importance of self checks andencouraging people to seek early treatment.

"However, we shouldn’t let these issues scare us. Beingaware of our bodies, noting any changes that occur and researchingsymptoms using the wealth of information available to us is alwaysa good start but if you have any real concerns your first stop mustalways be your GP."

The research shows it’s important to go to a GP’sappointment with symptoms and not a pre-conceived diagnosis. Nearlyall the GPs surveyed (96%) believe it is easy to come up with thewrong conclusion thanks to the sheer amount of informationavailable to the average consumer. In fact, GPs think that morethan one in two (51%) of their patients, who arrive at anappointment with a self-diagnosis, arrive with the wrong one.

However, trusting our GPs to make the right decision about ourhealthcare should not cause us concern - over four-fifths of thosepolled (86%) claimed they were confident or very confident in theirGP.


Media contacts:
Charlotte Ruddlesdin or Jo Misson,QBO Bell Pottinger on 020 7861 2424

Norwich Union Press Office contacts:
LornaWiltshire: 07800 695 150
James Evans: 01904 452 791 or 07800 699 525

Notes to editors:

Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned TNS to carry out researchamongst a representative sample of 202 GPs from across the UKduring March 2005; and commissioned research amongst arepresentative sample of 1006 GB adults during 24-27 March2005.

About Norwich Union Healthcare

Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcarearm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of income protectionand private medical insurance products that cover over 750,000lives. It is one of the largest providers of income protection andprivate medical insurance in the UK.

Norwich Union Healthcare is authorised and regulated by theFinancial Service Authority and is a member of the Association ofBritish Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva’s internet press centre

An ISDN facility is available for studio quality broadcast. CallQBO Bell Pottinger on 020 7861 2424.

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