How far can one trust Google as a source of information

The other day I underwent a two and a half hour delicate operation that required a local. It gave much time to explore various topics of conversation with the three nurses, a first year doctor and the surgeon.

Inevitably talk got onto the NHS as it always does! I am on good ground here as the French standard is far higher than UK private, let alone the NHS. Surprisingly they all talked down the nurses and junior doctor plight in the UK - particularly the nurses. The three nurses attending me said it was disgraceful that a UK nurse can leave a well enough paid job in the NHS, join a private agency and return to the same job with more money, and then have the nerve to go out on strike!

I had to agree with that. It is disgraceful. When I got home - and here is the point of the title - decided to Google medical pay comparisons, and what is accepted as a good salary in various countries. Astonishingly, the search results showed the average nurses salary in France as c. 36k€ and with the UK at 39kGBP. If this is the case, and listening to the three nurses in the theatre, I am changing my neutral stance on what is going on in the UK to one of, let’s say dismay.

Much interesting information appears on further surfing - eg, earning 4k€ p.m puts one into the top 8% of earners in France, with 8k€ p.m putting you in the top 1%…

But, as I question: what is the accuracy of the stuff on Google? Google cannot be blamed as such for any inaccuracies, but so often these days, what is read in Google content is taken to be accurate. mmm.

Depends on the “ stuff”. Google is only as useful as what’s in it. I am a volunteer on a health forum which is inundated with people who have asked google about x,y or z and believe what it says 100%. Health stuff brings out the worst snake oil salespeople.

This is what I have posted there:

We all get bombarded with stuff telling us to try this or that, or that there’s a new cure on the horizon. But how do you tell whether to believe it or not? This is my list to check whether I should take any notice.

Who is it from? If an individual are they qualified in the subject - often you get people who call themselves doctors. Which is not a lie but they actually have a PhD in antique greek literature, not medicine.

And if it’s a person or company, are they trying to promote or sell you something, or get you to join something? Doesn’t necessarily mean they are lying, but just treat with more suspicion.

Is the research behind what they are saying sound? So are they basing their opinions on small studies using mice, or anecdotal evidence that hasn’t been tested at all. If something is based on a Cochrane study then I’ll believe it. Otherwise I have my salt pot handy.

Do they give both sides of the theory? So do they interpret work to support what say they believe to be true, but ignore things that don’t agree. You should always interpret data within the full context of what is known about a subject.

Who do they cite as sources? If they are citing the Centre for Enhancing Wellbeing, or the Quinoa Nutrition Academy I would give far less weight to what they say than if they are using studies carried out in well known universities and research centres. Who they are cited by is also revealing.

Are they making unproven causal links? For example saying that watermelons prevent flu because 20 people who ate watermelons didn’t get flu.

If this subject interests you, here are some more common fallacies.…

PS: forgot to mention my other red flag…the gobbledygookers. You can usually understand good articles/research papers as they are written clearly, even if you don’t understand all the science. If something is written in a mixed up way, with no introduction or conclusion, and is full of random scientific facts without explaining how they are relevant, or how they fit together - then most likely it’s gobbledygook.


I have mentioned elsewhere that my own Doctor has (gently/politely) forbidden me to Google anything medical… :wink:

he insists I discuss any queries/worries with him… :+1: :+1:

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This is a great question.

The “democratization” of knowledge - resources like Wikipedia, and the fact that for most of us, our first port of call is Google - means that, with relatively little effort we can change information to suit our own agenda.


So the validity of google as a source of information is not in question, but the validity of the data on the websites it offers you as search results is ALWAYS going to be in question until demonstrated to be valid and reliable. Even if those websites are run by governments and international organisations.

You should always look for supporting evidence before believing stuff you read online, because people can and do post any old rubbish to support their views.

I’d probably start here:

Does the average nurse earn £34,000 a year? - BBC News (may be helpful for overview).
Nursing Salary, Pay Scale and Bands 2023 -

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My MT refers to it as consulting “Dr Google”, with :roll_eyes:.

Google search engine is fine as long as you skip the first few answers and any ‘sponsored’ links.

The first 10, or maybe more now, links listed on a Google search are not from everywhere on the worldwide web but ones from Google’s Index. Which ones come up first is a process of optimisation that companies pay marketing consultants to engineer. The ‘science’ is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

The resulting links are not exactly a ‘biased’ answer to your search question but it does need the reader to edit results. To avoid unwanted answers, input a more specific search using inverted commas.

Mine too.

I always think, “Well, I could have done that.”

The clever bit is knowing which ‘facts’ to ignore. :wink:


Of course I go to google when I want to understand about a health issue. I can’t possibly rely on my MT or my specialist (a) they don’t speak English (b) they are French men of a certain age and loathe it when I ask questions (c) they are French men and NEVER volunteer information which is hopeless if I don’t know what question to ask. (d) some vocabulary just isn’t there in French. Try explaining different types of pain.

It’s taken six months for the specialist who is treating my OH to finally explain what he has and what the op will involve. I’d worked all of this out from Google (which provided some very reassuring information) all those 6 months ago. OH doesn’t want to know the details - I do.

But I use lots of sites - some mainstream (NHS) some more complementary (Mayo Clinic) and I love the fact that I can access knowledge and information from anywhere in the world.


There are at least two in this place, myself with 2 PhD’s, the first in Fine Art, the other in Management Science.

But I imagine you don’t sell people potions promising to cure them of a conventionally incurable disease :rofl:

Indeed, one of my colleagues is pleased to wear a tee shirt that says “Not THAT Kind Of Doctor”.

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No, but I did promise to cure their electrical problems.

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Is that net or brut?

But how many hours do they do to achieve that income? No one performs at their best at 80 hours per week.

As I used to say about driving a 44 tonner, even after the 35 hour week came in we were still pushed towards that.

I leanred a new word the other day.
That is what google is suffering from.


You only have to try google translate to realise the shortcomings of google, let alone the sites it leads you to. Never take anything you find on the internet as accurate until you have cross referenced from many other independent sources. I have found that many sites just copy and paste the same garbage word for word from other dubious sources, so awareness of this is also important. Chat gpt may improve in time but is still currently laughable when it uses the same dubious information gathering to write absolute rubbish

Several issues here.

Google/Wikipaedia? Caveat emptor!

Reputable UK and US sites will give worthwhile advice.

Firstly having fractured my tibia and been offered comprehensive mismanagement and over treatment in a French Alpine hospital I would take issue with the assertion that the healthcare system in France is better even that the private UK equivalent. Fortunately I was with a busload of UK orthopaedic colleagues as it was their conference and the consultant who had recently arrived in France asked them to hold a mini multidisciplinary Xray conference and advise on 4 other cases he was managing when they pointed out he had missed my second fracture. The Brit in the next bed was also having his EHIC comprehensively drained whilst having his clavicle over managed.

The standard of surgical training in the UK is amongst the highest in the world though I would say that wouldn’t I having just retired from 42 years doing plumbing in the NHS. What you must appreciate is that there are 2 general surgeons per 100,000 in the UK, 4 in France and Germany and 12 in the US. We spend half as much of our GDP on healthcare as France and you get what your government pays for. Remember the French healthcare system is split roughly 50/50 one private and one state funded with little cross-pollination. You may have noticed some economic social security issues in France over the last few years. In the UK the majority of consultants are full time in the NHS and do private work in their time off (usually in lieu for the time we spend doing out of hours on call). The standard of surgery should be the same even if the food, decor and waiting times are not.

Starting salaries for Nurses in the UK are lamentable and we simply don’t train enough of our own. The majority of nurses in our area were from Europe the greatest number that used to scrub to help me, or look after out patients on the ward were Spanish, followed by Portuguese, Polish, Hungarian, Irish, Romanian, and Greek. (Oops hope the ex health secretary doesn’t spot that Oxford comma). They mainly disappeared after Brexit as they no longer got recognition for the experience they gained, as Spanish nurses for example got 1 point per month for every month they worked in an EU public hospital that counted towards their promotion. They could not get a job in Spain when newly qualified with no experience and they could not get experience without a job. Since Brexit we no longer fulfil half those criteria. I agree that it is unfair for the NHS to train nurses only to have them bale out in to agency work but their training bursary disappeared a few years ago and they have to pay for a lot of it themselves like Ryanair pilots! Contracting them to put a few years service in with the NHS first seems to be beyond the ability of the Department of Health. Do you seriously think that the independently employed Agency Nurses are on strike?!!!

The junior doctors are again losing support from the media and therefore the public as they have an incredibly good case but demanding 35% is a hopeless position from which to start. This strike is about money and rightly so. The last was about training and their contract being adversely re-written by Jeremy Hunt and they lost that one. As a result they now spend lots of their EU working time directive controlled hours doing out of hours emergency work so that if they want to come to theatre and learn to do complex planned surgical procedure like carotids and aortic aneursyms they have to do in in their time off and often don’t get paid and have been up half the night.

If new nurses are well enough paid why are so many now reduced to using food-banks?