This GP education session with Dr Will Bostock is being delivered as part of the CPTH GP Education Programme. It is open to GPs and ACPs working in Primary Care in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.


Functional symptoms and illnesses are common, representing between 20-60% of secondary care appointments. Left untreated the prognosis is guarded, often resulting in chronic ill-health with considerable morbidity and high utilisation of health care.

It is estimated by the King’s Fund that at least £11 billion each year is spent on poor management of medically unexplained symptoms. Despite this these illnesses remain poorly understood by both clinicians and the general public with considerable controversy surrounding them. As a result, they are rarely addressed in clinical practice, and consequently western medicine often becomes part of the problem.

Recent advances in our understanding of these conditions has led to new evidence based approaches for managing them, with the neurologists and pain specialists leading the way, providing new hope for patients whose illnesses may have previously been considered to be untreatable.

Learning objectives:

  • To define functional symptoms and illness – What does it mean to be ill without a disease?
  • Taking steps towards making a positive diagnosis of a functional illness, using the ‘FIT’ criteria as a framework.
  • Understand how modern neuroscience offers new options (and hope) in the management of these complex conditions.
  • Explore how to best approach this with patients, within the confines of NHS GP consults and societal health beliefs.
  • Consider the role of iatrogenesis in functional illness and how we can avoid becoming part of the problem.

Speaker Profile

Will Bostock is a GP with an interest in persistent physical symptoms and functional illness. He currently works as a locum in Cambridgeshire and also has a role in the CPFT Long-Covid service. He has created the podcast ‘Cambridge Progressive Medicine’ to support people suffering from functional symptoms within the framework of standard NHS GP consultations.