The RCGP has recently published a Social Media Highway Code in the hope it will offer some guidance to GPs who use social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter.
The code covers 10 points ranging from, ‘Be aware of the image you present online and manage this proactively’, to ‘Show your human side, but maintain professional boundaries’.
Is this guidance necessary? Yes, probably it is. Any doctor that uses social media in the UK is by definition bounded by the codes of ethical and moral standards upheld by the GMC. And if you use your real name in social media forums you deserve what you get if you admit on Facebook you drink a bottle of whiskey every weekend or you mention confidential patient information in the Twittersphere.
There is already guidance on doctors use of social media from the GMC and the medical defence organisations which pretty much explains the do’s and the don’ts on how to manage your public profile and avoid the wrath of the GMC.
What the RCGP has done is produce a code of conduct that makes sense and would be stupid to ignore if you use social media. Which is a pity, as sometimes it would be nice to be a normal person without the doctor label.
So, if you want to make a controversial statement, do it under a pseudonym.
Dr Hadrian Moss is a GP in Kettering, Northamptonshire. You can tweet him at @DrHMoss.