Doctors are being warned of the need to act professionally and avoid discussing confidential information on so-called ‘closed’ social media groups by the Medical Defence Union (MDU).

The warning comes after a discussion on a Facebook group used by GPs was criticised in a national paper for the language it used when discussing patients.

Figures recently published by the BMJ revealed that the General Medical Council closed 28 investigations related to doctors’ use of Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp between 1st January 2015 and 30th June 2017.

Dr Ellie Mein, MDU Medico-Legal Adviser, said, ‘Medicine is a stressful profession and social media forums can provide a useful outlet to discuss the pressures of the job. However, even though many forums used by doctors allow discussions in ‘members only’ areas, it’s important to be aware that comments may reach a wider audience. These ‘closed groups’ can create an illusion of security but it’s not always possible to know who will be accessing and sharing posts. It’s important to think carefully before you comment and to consider if you would be happy for your post to be shared, possibly with no reference to the original context in which it was made.

‘For these reasons it’s important to remain professional at all times when using social media and not to discuss information which could be identifiable.’

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