Thursday, 6 December 2007

The case of the missing doctor

How do you find a lost doctor? At this time of year we find library seats harbouring retired consultants checking up on old colleagues before finalising their Christmas card lists. There are other reasons for tracking down doctors, but the method is the same.

In the old days there were two big red books published for this purpose - the Medical Register and the Medical Directory.

Since 2004 the medical register has existed only online as part of the GMC website, under the name of "list of registered medical practitioners". You can search it, provided you know the first or last name of the doctor you want. The information on each is brief - name, speciality and some dates - enough to confirm that you've discovered the correct doctor.

The Medical Directory is a fuller listing, giving place of work. However, it is not freely available (i.e. you only get access if you or your organisation pay for it) and comes as a book or an unattractive CD for networking.

Hopefully you will have some vague idea of where the doctor you want is practising. This is where NHS Choices comes in. This allows you to search for hospital details. It's then a matter of a good old fashioned phone call to the hospital switchboard to ask if they have the relevant doctor working there. GPS are easier to find. Track down the town and the surgery details will include the names of doctors.

If your long lost chum is a consultant life is easier. Dr Foster keeps a beady eye on consultants. All you need to know is their speciality and a rough idea of where they work, and you'll track them down. You can also search by name. The results will give you GMC details and their place of work.

A more general option is Google. Tap in the name of your missing medic, preferably with the name in quote marks. You may also want to add the speciality. Few doctors get through life without publishing a paper or sitting on a committee that will push their details on to Google. Don't forget to check the dates of any information you find, and take the most recent.

Elementary, my dear Watson!

(c) creative commons attributed, image 1, image 2, image 3

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