'NHS doctor told me to Google symptoms of mystery infection I've had for three years'

Bianca says she was told to look for answers on Google during her hospital appointment
Bianca says she was told to look for answers on Google during her hospital appointment -Credit:PA Real Life

A 20-year-old woman who has had a mysterious urine infection for almost three years which is ruining her sex life has “lost all hope” of NHS treatment after she says a doctor told her to search for answers on Google. Bianca Padurariu, a nanny from Crystal Palace, south east London, has been trying to find out why she experiences a painful burning sensation every time she goes to the toilet or tries to have sex with her partner, who does not wish to be named.

She has visited the GP several times since she first started having symptoms in September 2021 and was given two rounds of antibiotics, which failed to remedy the situation, before being told “nothing is wrong” after a urine test came back negative. Unable to get a hospital referral, Bianca took matters into her own hands, paying £700 for a private gynaecologist consultation in September 2023, which confirmed she was suffering from a recurrent urinary tract infection (UTI).

With the results, Bianca was able to secure a hospital appointment with a urologist at Queen Mary’s Hospital in south west London where, during a follow-up appointment, she said the doctor asked whether she had heard of the world’s most popular search engine, Google, before suggesting she use that to find answers. Bianca sent a letter of complaint to the NHS Patient Advice and Liaison Service saying she had been there to speak to a professional and not to “panic” by looking up her symptoms on Google. She said she has now lost “all hope” of treatment with the NHS after years of trying and is now fundraising for private treatment.

“Now I’ve lost all hope that the NHS will do anything about this,” Bianca said. "I’m not really sure what kind of infection I have at this point.

“It just didn’t go away, so I’m wondering, is it something more complicated? It’s quite sad really, because I am not OK.”

UTIs are extremely common, with about half of all women in the UK suffering at least one during their lifetime, according to the charity Kidney Research UK, but symptoms usually last less than a week. Bianca became concerned in September 2021 when she started going to the toilet more frequently than usual.

“Every time I drank a sip of water, five minutes later I needed the toilet,” she said. “I waited to see if it would stop, but it continued so I booked an appointment with the GP.”

A urine test confirmed Bianca was suffering from an infection and she was given antibiotics. But, after completing the five-day course, Bianca said her bladder problems did not subside, so she returned to see the GP in Streatham Common a few weeks later. She did another urine test and was prescribed antibiotics which, again, did not solve the problem.

“Again, nothing changed so I went back and asked for a referral,” she said. “They said I would have to do another urine test first.

“When the test came back, they said ‘You’re fine, nothing’s wrong’. I explained that was strange because I was still experiencing the same symptoms and that I would like to see a specialist. But they couldn’t do that unless the test came back positive for infection.”

Bianca said she lived with her symptoms for the next two years.

“I was probably going to the toilet like 10 or 15 times a day,” she said. “When I was peeing, it was burning a bit.

“But the main thing which really bothered me was having to go to the toilet every time I drank water. It also affected my sex life, because I could not have a normal sexual relationship without it hurting.”

This has heaped a lot of pressure on Bianca’s current and past relationships.

“I refused to have a sexual relationship with my boyfriend because it hurt,” she said. “We would try to, but it was burning, so I would have to stop. I believe when a couple has a sexual relationship that helps connect them.”

Bianca has launched a fundraiser on GoFundMe for £8,000 to pay for private treatment
Bianca has launched a fundraiser on GoFundMe for £8,000 to pay for private treatment -Credit:PA Real Life

With nowhere to turn, Bianca decided to pay £700 for a consultation with a private gynaecologist in north London. Tests showed Bianca had a “recurrent urine infection” and early signs of endometriosis, a long-term condition which can cause severe pain in the pelvis, especially during menstruation, intercourse and when going to the toilet.

“She also found high levels of protein in my kidneys and said I should see a doctor immediately,” said Bianca. Going back to the gynaecologist was not an option for Bianca however, as it was too expensive. “I don’t have this kind of money to spend if I have to come several times,” she said.

Instead, they offered to write to Bianca’s GP so they could refer her to hospital. In November 2023, Bianca visited a urologist at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton, south west London.

“The doctor just told me to drink lots of cranberry juice and water,” she said. “So I did that, but it didn’t get any better.”

Bianca returned to the hospital on February 27, 2024, determined to get to the bottom of what was wrong with her. “She asked me ‘How have you been?’ and I explained that I had followed what she said, but it did not get any better.

“I asked if we could do more tests, but she said they couldn’t really do that. She said they were here to offer me a plan that I could follow, and if you don’t, fine, that’s your problem.”

But Bianca said she continued pushing for answers, pointing out that she still experienced a burning feeling every time she peed.

“She seemed really bothered that I kept asking questions,” she said. “Then she was like, ‘Oh, have you heard of this thing called Google?’. I said ‘of course I’ve heard of Google’ and she was like ‘then you can find your answers there’.”

Bianca left the appointment in tears and still none the wiser about the medical issue she faced.

She lodged a formal complaint with the Patient Advice and Liaison Service about her experience in February, saying: “I [was] there to speak to a professional regarding my problems. Google will never give me the right answer, it will just make me panic.”

She has given up trying to find answers through the NHS and is now fundraising for private treatment. Bianca has launched a fundraiser on GoFundMe for £8,000, but said she does not know exactly how much this will cost.

“I really appreciate anyone who shares my fundraiser or makes a donation, every little contribution helps,” she said.

The NHS has been contacted by the Press Association for comment.