The Medical Council will update its guidance on doctors’ social media use by the summer, this newspaper has learned.
Section 20 of the Council’s Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners (Amended) 8th Edition (2019) contains the most up-to-date guidance for doctors on the use of social media.
“The guide is currently under review, with a new edition expected to be finalised in mid-2023, which will contain updated guidance across a range of areas, including social media,” a Council spokesperson told the Medical Independent.
Section 20.5 of the current guide recognises that closed professional networks “are a useful way to share experiences and case studies, set up expert or learning groups, and get advice or help”. However, the document also states that when using professional networks, doctors “as far as possible” should not give information that would identify patients.
“You should also take reasonable steps to check that the network you are using has effective security settings and privacy policies, to minimise the risk of information about patients becoming more widely available,” according to the guide.
The Council had no exact data on complaints relating to doctors’ use of social media.
“The Medical Council does not currently capture social media as a category of complaint, these complaints would be recorded under ‘communication’,” the spokesperson said.
“However, a large number of our complaints do relate to the category of ‘communication’.
“For example, in 2020, of 279 complaints received, 105 were in relation to communication. Complaints relating to communication could relate to a disagreement, breakdown in doctor-patient relationship, inappropriate comments, social media comments, and other issues related to communications.”