Letter in the Daily Telegraph on “reputable” health websites and their problems

  1. On 1 January 2018, I had a letter published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper on “reputable” health websites and their problems.
  2. This was in response to the Telegraph’s front-page story on 29 December 2017, “Patients told: ask Dr Google before your GP”. There it was reporting the latest advice from the Royal College of GPs to reduce the number of unnecessary GP consultations: http://www.rcgp.org.uk/news/2017/december/3-before-gp-new-rcgp-mantra-to-help-combat-winter-pressures-in-general-practice.aspx.
  3. My letter is available on the Telegraph website: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2018/01/01/lettersthe-honours-system-based-strange-definition-public-service/.
  4. For those outside the paywall, here it is as published:


In an attempt to reduce the number of unnecessary GP consultations, the Royal College of GPs has advised the public to follow three steps before booking an appointment (report, December 29). One of these is to consult NHS Choices or “similar reputable websites/ resources”.

But what exactly is a reputable health website? Opaque business models abound, even among trusted websites. Very few, if any, adequately disclose their contributors’ relevant financial interests.

Moreover, if a health site carries adverts, the separation between them and editorial can be blurred.

Dr Alex May