19th July 2018

Musgrove Park joins forces with Taunton library to help people avoid health ‘fake news’

(left to right): Siobhan Linsey (Librarian at Musgrove Park Hospital), Alex Cunningham-Scott (Development Officer at Somerset Libraries)

People from Taunton and the surrounding area are getting tips on how to avoid getting caught by fake healthcare news on the internet.

Information specialists at Musgrove Park Hospital will be visiting Taunton’s main library on Paul Street where they will have a display that advises people on how to find good quality health information on the web.

The display will be in the library’s health zone, next to the main entrance, from Thursday 28 June, to coincide with national Health Information Week.

As part of the week, the Taunton library staff will also get training in supporting health information queries from members of the public by ensuring they signpost them to quality, trustworthy information.

Carol-Ann Regan, from the library service at Musgrove Park Hospital, said:

“When we are given a diagnosis, or are unwell, most of us try to research the symptoms ourselves on the internet as it’s so easy.

“But it’s not always helpful, and can actually do a lot of harm if you come across a website that relies on hearsay or has inaccurate information.

“Before you start your search for health information on the internet, it’s worth thinking of the following things:

“No one is in charge of the internet – anyone can post information, and there is no one checking that the information is correct.

“There are some people who use the internet to make money, either by selling medicines illegally or recommending a wonder cure that doesn’t work.

“Remember that healthcare in other countries is organised in different ways to the UK. Some treatments might not be available in the UK or be offered to different people. In addition, some conditions or medicines have different names in different countries.

“Once you’ve found the information you are looking for, you need to decide what to do with it next. There are quality standards for reliable health information – the main one in the UK is the Information Standard. If you use websites which display this standard then you know that the information has been checked and accredited by professionals.”

Musgrove’s library team has also published some handy tips for checking how valid information on the internet is: who has put the formation on the internet? What is it really trying to do? Where in the world does it come from?

Carol-Ann Regan added: “We’d strongly suggest that you speak to your family doctor about the information you’ve found in the first instance. Rather than go along with a lot of print outs, use the information you find to put together a list of questions to ask your doctor.”

Two websites that display the Information Standard are NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk) and Patient. Co .uk (www.patient.co.uk)

These sites have information on conditions, treatments, local services and healthy living.

To contact Musgrove Park’s library team, email library@tst.nhs.uk or phone 01823 342 433.