Careless talk costs careers

Be mindful of the potential dangers that social networking and other online communications presents. 

The risk of being overheard commenting about patients outside the surgery is well understood. However, after a hard day, it can be tempting to let off steam to work colleagues or other professionals online, in an email, a blog or via a 'private' forum or a social networking website.

GDC guidance

A group of dental nurses found themselves in hot water with the GDC for establishing a social networking group called 'I'm a dental nurse and I hate patients because …'

In this instance, the GDC made it clear that such behaviour is not acceptable, stating: 'We would urge any registrant who is a member of this group to remove themselves immediately and delete any posts you may have made in the past.' 

In its guidance Standards for the Dental Team (2013) the GDC states that 'You should not publish anything that could affect patients' and the public's confidence in you, or the dental profession, in any public media, unless this is done as part of raising a concern.' It goes on to say 'you must not make personal, inaccurate or derogatory comments about patients or colleagues' (paragraph 9.1.3). 

Paragraph 4.2.3 states: 'you must not post any information or comments about patients on social networking or blogging sites. If you use professional social media to discuss anonymised cases for the purpose of discussing best practice you must be careful that the patient or patients cannot be identified.'

For further information see the GDC's online supplementary guidance on social networking.  

Our advice

  • Users of social media sometimes forget it is a public forum just like any other. If you would not publish something in a journal or tell it to a journalist, it is a safe bet that it would also be inappropriate to publish in social media. 
  • It may be difficult to justify sharing even anonymised information about patient care on a social networking site, online forum, blog or website. 
  • Commenting about patients online leaves dental professionals vulnerable to a GDC fitness to practise investigation which could jeopardise your registration.
  • If you are considering posting comments or concerns about a colleague on a social media site, before you post your comments we urge you to contact your dental defence organisation.

This guidance was correct at publication . It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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