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Do we live in world where we are drowning in information while starving for wisdom? The saying goes that it takes seven years to train to be a doctor, and twenty seconds for a receptionist to think they are one. Everywhere I turn, particularly in the current climate, someone seems to be freely giving their often uninvited opinion on the Covid-19 pandemic and other health issues. Nowadays, it takes thirty seconds for someone to Google their symptoms and diagnose themselves AND OTHERS, often resulting in misdiagnosed illnesses and a whole heap of fear.

I have observed this phenomenon myself standing in a doctor’s reception room, listening to the doctor’s wife practically screaming at patient that she “did the consultations in the clinic” – and in fact, provided some of the treatments. Her medical qualifications? She was simply the doctor’s wife. It is quite terrifying to realise the sheer number of people who now think they are medical experts, despite zero training.

Meanwhile, some poor, elderly person on their last legs, stuck in a care home and desperate to see the smile of a loved one, is denied the opportunity to say their last goodbyes.

I have even seen a woman – again with no qualifications – instructing a cancer-stricken man to perform exercises, including rolling a ball along his spine. I was left speechless, knowing that you need to be extremely careful when it comes to even touching someone with cancer. Massage therapists, osteopaths and other professionals train for years to an advanced level in order to treat cancer patients, and often even they will not dare to touch a patient without the supervision of an oncologist. Of course, when challenged, her answer was: “I have had cancer, so I know what I am doing”. She then put her hand up, as if she was teaching a class.

Having just had root canal work, it was tempting to offer my own expertise on performing complex dental procedures.

Did you know that you can complete a course in eyebrow microblading (eyebrow tattooing) without any beauty or medical qualifications, and a week later be qualified to open a shop? Some people who may attend the odd day or, at best, a week-long course in dermatology call themselves ‘beauty experts’.  For them, there is no need to go to beauty school and work hard for two or three years. I have seen this in action: I know someone who is injecting people to this day without a full beauty course under her belt, let alone any medical training. Again, of course, this person – an ex-saleswoman – appears credible. I would encourage anyone going to see a beautician or ‘aesthetics expert’ to first establish just how qualified they are.

We live in a world where people just do not know who to trust when it comes to expert advice. Let’s face it: during the lockdown, the mixed messages and ‘do what I say, not as I do’ attitude of the Government had us all questioning the medical information we were being fed. Many of us could be forgiven for turning to online research in the hope of getting some answers. 

Former Health Secretary playing away after instructing the rest of us to adhere to social distancing rules. Image: The Sun.

Unfortunately, however, this also produced a large cohort of unqualified, sometimes misinformed ‘experts’ on the coronavirus and other medical issues. If I get one more well-meaning e-mail, text or call urging me to “take vitamin D” or “wear rubber gloves when you pick up your Amazon box and disinfect it” as “people are getting the virus off the boxes” I may not be responsible for my actions.    

The problem is that getting your medical information from random websites or social media does not make you a doctor or scientist. If there were any doubt that people were receiving mixed messages, it became obvious when people were encouraged to clap for our overworked healthcare workers. It’s not a bad thing: standing twenty feet apart and clapping to show solidarity, and we were all made to feel as if we were doing something to support our great NHS (although I feel the same way about it as I do about prayer – it’s all about you really. Sending a fiver to an NHS charity would be better). But it didn’t take long for the virtue signallers to congregate on the bridges across the Thames and outside hospitals across the country in their dozens…no social distancing, self-congratulatory hugging, clapping away. These people clearly missed the whole point of the exercise.

Meanwhile, some poor, elderly person on their last legs, stuck in a care home and desperate to see the smile of a loved one, is denied the opportunity to say their last goodbyes. You could forgive people who felt like turning a hose on these crowds, clap clap clapping away, breaking the rules and, in so doing, spreading the virus and adding to the crippling workload of the workers they were supposed to be supporting. 

After the year during which I felt I’d heard it all, something came out the woodwork that honestly topped anything that had come before. I work on location, on a job where every team member must be vaccinated and tested to be there. One day, the lovely make-up lady was busy sharing how she had been vaccinated, as had her husband.  One of the women working with us piped up: “my husband’s a surgeon, and he doesn’t believe in the vaccine. If you have it done, you’ll die young!” Everyone sat opened mouthed in shock. Hoping to diffuse the atmosphere, I pointed out that, at 60, it was impossible for me to die young. Of course, on reflection, I think: how dare she not tell everyone her vaccine status before she came on location?

It really is time to tell people to stop sharing their personal opinions when it comes to our health unless they are qualified. I’ve watched many episodes of BBC Casualty, but I’m not about to perform brain surgery. Nor would I attempt to rewire my flat, as I’m not an electrician. I dated one once, but that doesn’t mean I can put in a new fuse box for you. Let us stop scaring people and get the facts from the professionals.

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Steven Smith

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