Earlier this month the Health and Care Professions Council published their guidance on social media, with the intention of assisting registrants to use social media in a way which will meet the regulator’s standards. This guidance follows the publication of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s ‘Guidance on using social media responsibly’ in July of this year and the General Medical Council’s 2013 publication of ‘Doctors’ use of social media’.
Each guidance document follows a similar theme in seeking to encourage registrants to actively think about the content of each post, and the likely audience, before posting. The general guidance set out in the relevant professional codes is reiterated in that there are reminders not to breach professional boundaries in these public forums, not to post confidential information or to identify service users and not to post material that could be considered inappropriate or offensive. This would include ‘re-tweeting’ or ‘sharing/liking’ the posts of third parties which some could consider controversial or inappropriate.
Unfortunately, the apparent anonymity of using these sites can lead registrants to fall foul of the standards when communicating with others, in a way that that would never happen in face to face communications. The clear message is that whilst social media can be of real benefit and a great resource to medical professionals, offensive posts can be traced back to the individuals concerned and regulatory and/or criminal proceedings may well follow.
As specialist lawyers dealing with professional misconduct and regulation on a daily basis we have seen an increase in referrals relating to inappropriate social media usage and this is expected to increase in the coming years.
If you do require assistance in dealing with a referral to your regulator or have any queries in respect of inappropriate social media usage our dedicated team are on hand to assist you.
If you require assistance in dealing with a referral to your professional regulator please contact our team for expert advice. For more information, visit our professional misconduct and regulation section or call 01616 966 229.