Social media advice calls rise

By Robin Stride

Doctors are being advised to be switched on to the potential downsides of taking part in the surge of new publicity opportunities offered by electronic media.

Defence body the Medical and Dental Union of Scotland (MDDUS) says it frequently receives calls for advice about engaging with media producers and these types of calls are on the rise.

It suggests doctors should think carefully before agreeing to take part in broadcast/social media, check details of any proposal carefully and ensure the activity complies with GMC guidance.

If doctors also have an employed contract, the union advises they should check with their employer before agreeing to participate.

Doctors’ queries with the MDDUS include the following common scenarios:

Arrow kite Requests to participate in online channels with real-time comments on popular TV programmes. Prod­ucers often are just looking for a personal view but in the context of being a medical professional;

Arrow kiteContributing to online blogs or publications, not directly related to professional practice, but which would state professional qualifications;

Arrow kitePatients with complex histories who agree to be ‘followed’ for a documentary. Media bosses want GPs and consultants involved in their care to be filmed during consultations and interviewed about the patient’s condition;

Arrow kiteRequests from friends to add clinical content to a blog about a medical condition.


MDDUS medical and risk adviser Dr Gail Gilmartin said medical and dental professionals were not forbidden to take part in any of these activities but it was essential to remember that anything they do is judged against professional standards.

Doctors should remember that the GMC places great emphasis on maintaining public confidence in the profession and takes seriously any doctor’s activities which could bring the profession into disrepute.

Where patients are directly involved, their informed, documented consent is essential.

Doctors are advised that if anonymised data is used, or filming occurs in a medical setting, to beware of inadvertent confidentiality breaches.