GP interview - Dr Ellie Cannon: The media GP

As a national press health expert, practising GP and mother of two, Dr Ellie Cannon has a burgeoning portfolio career, writes Susie Sell.

Dr Ellie Cannon shows no signs of slowing down, with her latest project to confront the conflicting advice given to new parents.

Dr Cannon is probably best known as 'Dr Ellie', the regular health expert on Sky News, as well as being the resident GP for the Mail on Sunday, Mail Online and Woman magazine.

She shines a light for all doctors who are looking to challenge the misinformation circulated in the national press, with her evidence-based arguments to debunk what she calls 'pseudo health news'.

Contentious issues

Throughout her media career, Dr Cannon has not been afraid to confront contentious issues.

She recently waded into the heated Newsnight spat between Daily Mail columnist Peter Hitchens and actor Matthew Perry over addiction and drug courts.

In 2010 she wrote about the pressures faced by out-of-hours GPs, and more recently addressed the problematic question of how to educate children about sex.

Dr Cannon says she is happy to court controversial subjects because 'these things need to be said'.

'They are not just said because I'm trying to get a headline,' she explains. 'It is because it is genuinely what I see day in, day out, at the coalface of the NHS. There is a huge amount of misinformation and I see it very much as my role to counterbalance that.'

Her recent foray into the world of publishing is no different. Her first book, Keep Calm: The New Mum's Manual, aims to challenge the conflicting advice given to new parents.

In her book, she suggests that apart from a few important rules, such as making sure babies sleep on their back, new parents should trust their instincts.

The book is described as 'turning the tables on encyclopaedic tomes on parenthood' and 'the perfect antidote to inflexible, guilt-inducing parenting guides'.

Dr Cannon says she was eager to write the book after becoming fed up with the 'constant barrage of confusing, conflicting advice' that new parents face.

'Most of these so-called rules are utter drivel and mums end up confused, feeling guilty and not trusting themselves,' she says.

Writing and television

The book is yet another project for her portfolio career. On top of her writing and television work, she practises two days a week at a clinic in north London, once delivering a baby on the floor of the surgery.

'Sometimes there isn't time to get to the hospital, so this patient did the next best thing and turned up at my clinic,' she says. 'Luckily mum and baby did very well. It was an unusual start to a Monday morning!'

Despite her commitment to her clinical and media work, she says on her website that her 'proper job' is being a mum to her two children. It is clearly a well-practised juggling act, but Dr Cannon is keen to stress that she is 'no superwoman'.

Instead, she says, the key is learning early on that you can't do everything, and prioritising what is important: in her case, patients and family.

'I don't try to be the perfect chef or fitness fanatic: I'd like to, but there are only so many hours in the day.'

Dr Cannon says GPs should not shy away from a media career, although she admits that putting yourself in the public eye can be a challenge. But she believes media GPs have the potential to effect change. She points out that a body of well-known media GPs could have helped in the MMR scandal in the 1990s, by telling people their children had been vaccinated. 'That type of trust is very important,' she says. 'I don't think there is great health education in this country.'

She adds that being an authoritative voice in the national press is an important job. 'Of course you have to be careful what you say. I do live television, so you have to be up-to-the-minute with your knowledge. But I don't see that as any different from a patient walking into your surgery.'

  • Dr Cannon's book, 'Keep Calm: The New Mum's Manual', is published on 6 March

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