NHS staff disciplined for social media misuse

NHS staff disciplined for social media misuse

More than 1,200 NHS staff have been disciplined for their use of social media or messaging apps since 2013 and at least 65 of them lost their jobs, according to a report in The Times. Staff ranging from consultants to porters have shared patient information online, posted derogatory messages about colleagues and used sites such as Facebook or Twitter at work.

The figures were released to The Times by 194 NHS trusts in England under freedom of information laws. Experts said that misuse was widespread and threatened patient confidentiality and professional reputations. Lawyers who represent doctors in misconduct hearings told them to be aware that ethical standards expected of them were the same online as face to face and that they should not be lulled into a false sense of security by privacy settings on their accounts.

Bernadette John, a digital professionalism consultant, said that students and junior staff were “generally technologically fluent, uninhibited with regard to privacy and the use of social media, apps and digital technology” but “naive and inexperienced as clinical professionals”. On the other hand older clinicians who had adopted the technology did not always fully understand its implications, she said.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Electronic sharing of patient information between medical professionals can be vital for effective patient care, and the NHS needs to ensure its systems are adequate for this, and include appropriate safeguards. The use of consumer messaging services by some staff to do this indicates that there is a need that NHS systems are not currently meeting.”

Pallavi Bradshaw, of the Medical Protection Society, said: “Some have been investigated years after the messages were written, highlighting that they remain accessible and can be shared without an individual’s knowledge.”

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