Doctors with knowledge across the breadth of medicine and society as a whole will be needed as patients become better informed, a leading health academic has claimed.

In the annual Harveian Oration to the Royal College of Physicians, former RCP president Lord Turnberg said scientific advances would continue to bring benefits, such as better diagnosis and - through human genome mapping - the ability to predict the likelihood of contracting diseases.

But he said that as more information was put into the public arena, people would become more vulnerable and anxious.

He said people were already more risk averse - there had to be 'a name for every illness, a pill for every ill' and that paradoxically 'the fear of death and illness is rising at a time when the population has never been healthier'.

Lord Turnberg said that to cope, doctors would need a depth of understanding not only in their specialist area, but spanning the breadth of medicine and society.

Tomorrow's doctors would need to be responsive to their patients through communication, empathy, compassion and a sense of partnership, he said.