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GPs go forth

Use of the internet by practice staff

Dr Melanie Wynne-Jones offers practical guidance

Q We feel that as a practice we need to establish some rules for internet use by staff. This includes the use of e-mails. I recall an article in Pulse which gave some very helpful advice. Could you remind us of the main points of good practice internet usage?

A Allowing everyone in the practice to have access to the internet is a risk that must be actively managed. Many doctors browse the internet for information or recreation during the working day, and many practices are happy to allow employees access during their breaks, as long as they observe practice policies. These should cover:

• When employees may or may not access the internet and whether personal use is

allowed in non-practice time

• Whether employees are required to use their own log-in or password, keep

passwords secret, and log off when finished to protect themselves in the event of an

audit trail to investigate inappropriate use

• A warning that access may not be secure (for example when using online banking)

• A note of the types of site that may not be accessed (job adverts, offensive or

pornographic websites)

• The need to observe copyright, licensing and other laws

• A ban on changing security settings

• A ban on loading unauthorised software on to the system or downloading

unauthorised software from the internet

• A ban on use of sites for criminal purposes

• A ban on divulging confidential

information about the practice or patients on chat-rooms, blogs and so on

• A ban on posting offensive material

• Guidance on when a breach of the policy will result in disciplinary action

• A policy on practice e-mail usage

The policy on e-mails is a comprehensive section in its own right and should specify that employees of the practice:

• Use professional language in all e-mails

• Do not bring the practice into disrepute

• Do not send e-mails that are abusive, pornographic, racist, sexist or in any other way inflammatory or illegal

• Must agree, when absent, to have work-

related e-mails read by colleagues

• May be subject to disciplinary action for specified breaches.

Melanie Wynne-Jones is a GP in Marple, Cheshire

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