Do we really need GPs any more? Wouldn’t it make more sense to directly refer yourself to hospital?

The ever expanding encompasses of the internet, not to mention the proliferation of those all-knowing gurus on social media, is certainly enough to convince anyone that, after a quick Google and maybe a TikTok video or two, they know best. Forget an apple a day.

Online surveys that offer up addictively fast definitive diagnoses are replacing family doctors as the first line when illness strikes.

Since the pandemic, "health anxiety" has been on the rise. Unfortunately, so have patient waiting lists. Getting to see any kind of medical professional now involves tenacity, grit and a hell of a lot of patience, rather than the simple phone call for an on-the-day consult.

And the online culture that festered during the pandemic hasn’t dissipated since – and is, in fact, filling the void for anxious patients.

Googling symptoms is a dangerous path to go down, however.

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The search engine works by pulling together results that best match the words in your entry. So if you type "skin tingling fatigue nerve problems", it’s not too difficult to guess what might come up.

At the same time, taking advice from other patients online can be useful if you have a formal diagnosis. And there are amazing patient communities that work to provide robust support networks online.

But relying solely on the experience of others to self-diagnose poses serious issues. Not least because many different conditions can present with the same symptoms, and also because many normal bodily sensations can be wrongly pathologised. It’s a tricky road to navigate.

But the fact remains that it is becoming more difficult to see your GP and the process can be frustrating and disheartening – particularly if you believe you have a condition that requires a specialist, you can begin to feel like your general practitioner is an obstacle to your referral.

Is there an alternative that can help you learn more about whether your symptoms are something to be concerned about while you wait to see your doctor?

The NHS website is good for simplified breakdowns of illnesses and their treatments, while the NHS Inform website can provide more detail. is another great source that provides information written both for patients and doctors including handy explainers, topical health pieces and breakdowns of how certain treatments work.

And for hypochondriacs, learning more about disease epidemiology is particularly useful. This is the area of medicine that focuses on who is more likely to be affected by certain conditions, and where these conditions are more prevalent.

While you won’t receive definitive answers about whether or not you have something, knowing more about what genders and age groups are more likely to be affected by certain diseases can help anxious people stay rational.

Particularly in the face of Dr Google and social media, which can convince you that you’re afflicted with everything under the sun.