Community Psychiatrist Sells His Skills On eBay

Some NHS doctors boost their income by dabbling in private practice, but one psychiatrist has opted for a markedly different approach – selling his medical knowledge on the online auction site eBay. Syed Shah, a community psychiatrist for North East Essex mental health trust, is auctioning an “education” on 36 mental health topics, ranging from schizophrenia and manic depression to post-traumatic stress disorder. At a starting price of £25, eBay customers can bid to email him five questions on their chosen subject.

Shah, an NHS doctor for 10 years, assures buyers that “being a UK-trained psychiatrist, I can promise a reliable service”. His eBay “shop”, adorned with colourful graphics, is entitled Quality Online Store and has the marketing slogan: “Quality goods at bargin [sic] prices you can trust.”

It is an imaginative – and unprecedented – move by an NHS medic. Shah hopes this experience will give him a competitive edge over the hundreds of websites offering free mental health information. Shah, who previously worked as a psychiatrist in Manchester hospitals, then with Hertfordshire Partnership NHS trust, admits that “competing against health websites is going to be tough, but I am trying to stress that people will be getting knowledge straight from the horse’s mouth”.

He had planned to auction one-to-one clinical consultations at eBay, but – after seeking advice from the Medical Defence Union – he was deterred because “there are a huge number of regulations and insurance issues”.

Shah admits that he launched his eBay store last year to raise the £4,500 needed for a masters course in medical statistics, which might open up a career in academia. “The NHS is full of bureaucracy and I am disillusioned,” he says.

He also laments organisational changes in mental health which, he feels, has devalued his expertise. He says: “We have a new crisis home response team … if I see someone who needs to be admitted I have to send them to this team and my clinical judgment can then be overridden by nurses or social workers. So, after 10 years of being angry about all of this, I thought: ‘What’s the point?'”

Shah’s store lists much more than mental health education. He offers around 800 items, ranging from camisoles to incense sticks to books on business in South Africa. He has sold more than 400 items in total. However, he has yet to receive one bid for his mental health knowledge.