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The perils of Social Media

Case Study

 

A Specialty Doctor, Dr X, contacted the MDS advice team after receiving a letter from the GMC, advising him that they had received a complaint from a member of the public about comments posted by Dr X on Facebook. Dr X had stated his medical credentials on his Facebook account.

 

The complaint was made by a member of the public who felt offended by Dr X’s posts and the comments on these posts, some of which were made by other Facebook users. The complainant alleged that Dr X’s posts constituted ‘hate speech against specific communities’ and were a ‘violation of GMC’s guidelines on social media’.

 

As a result of this GMC referral, Dr X’s employer also commenced an MHPS investigation.

 

MDS Advice

 

MDS holistically advised Dr X in relation to the GMC investigation and the Trust investigation.

 

The GMC investigation progressed to Rule 7 stage and Dr X was invited to provide his response to the allegations. Dr X confirmed in his Rule 7 response that it was not his intention to cause offence to anyone and acknowledged that his posts and comments were capable of doing so, for which he apologised. Dr X also confirmed that he would be more mindful when posting on social media in future and had already taken steps to ensure that his comments on his posts were not offensive, by monitoring comments left by other users.

 

The GMC concluded the matter with advice for Dr X, based on his apology and insight. Although Dr X was pleased with this result, a GMC investigation can be a stressful experience and one which Dr X could have avoided.

 

Learning Points

  • Use of social media is ever increasing and doctors must be aware of and familiarize themselves with the GMC’s guidance on Doctors’ Use of Social Media
  • Doctors should bear Good Medical Practice in mind when using social media – if you would hesitate to say something in person, do not say it on social media
  • Think before posting – doctors retain professional responsibility to ensure that any publicly accessible comments which they make maintain the dignity and professionalism required of a doctor.