GMC Chairman Professor Sir Peter Rubin on the GMC’s stance on social media
Since publication, there’s been lively debate on the particular piece of guidance that states if we’re identifying ourselves as doctors in online discussions about health issues, we should say who we are, just as we normally do when writing to the correspondence columns of newspapers.
I want to stress that this isn’t a requirement: no-one is going to get struck off for failing to reveal their identity. The GMC isn’t concerned with what doctors tweet about food, fashion or football, and we acknowledge that everyone has a right to remain anonymous in their private life, outside practice. But by its very nature – social media is anything but private.
Declaring we’re doctors adds weight and credibility to our views. With that privilege comes a responsibility not to undermine public confidence in the profession, whether we’re discussing waiting lists or transfer lists. The GMC isn’t out to curtail anyone’s freedom to express their opinion on medical issues; a large part of Good Medical Practice is about better engaging with colleagues and patients, and better reporting of problems – something we all need a timely reminder of in light of the Francis report.
But I would suggest that a social network is not the place to raise a concern. If doctors with concerns find it hard to speak up locally they can contact our confidential helpline (0161 923 6399). If we’re going to get the best for patients, particularly in financially constrained times, we need to embrace digital technology and use it to our advantage. Reading Good Medical Practice and using it to guide the professional judgments we make every day will help us do that.