A GP’s registration was suspended yesterday after he admitted using his Twitter account to post offensive language about people who opposed his pro-transgender views on social media.

This serves as another reminder that the use of social media should be done with great care, even when it is believed to be in a private and personal capacity. Anything posted should be treated as permanent and therefore great care should be taken to avoid any potentially embarrassing or otherwise inappropriate content. Family and friends may not be aware of the potential difficulties you may face if the posts are viewed by other parties. They may inadvertently post their own incriminating content or forward information posted by a registered practitioner outside of closed groups, which can then easily be traced back to the doctor.

There are many privileges that come with being a registered medical practitioner, but also responsibilities that are expected in return, vital to maintaining trust in the profession. Patients and the public expect the highest standard of behaviour from doctors. Therefore, the negative publicity given by the press and sanctions meted out by the GMC for those perceived to have stepped outside of the professional boundaries are much greater than for the general public and even other professions.

Always think; ‘Would I be comfortable explaining my words, posts and actions to colleagues and the GMC’ before carrying them out.

However, we are all only human and GMC-regulated doctors and surgeons are often under a great deal of pressure.  There are lots of reasons why a doctor or surgeon might have a lapse in judgement and write or post something inappropriate and regrettable.  As this case shows, even where the messages are relatively old and the doctor would never dream of writing anything similar now, the GMC may need to investigate.  Equally, it is easy for someone to entirely misconstrue a message or post and allege that it is offensive when the intention was anything but. 

For this reason, Incision members have the benefit of robust Commercial Legal Expenses cover to fund specialist legal advice and representation in the event of a GMC investigation, including into allegedly inappropriate messages sent in a private rather than work capacity.  Incision members also have the benefit of access to medico-legal guidance by phone and email.  If any doctor or surgeon is unlucky enough to face an investigation by a hospital or the GMC into this type of alleged misconduct, then it is in their interests to contact their indemnifiers to access specialist medico-legal advice and guidance.  With the proper medico-legal and legal advice at the right time, and good remediation, there is every chance that the doctor's career and reputation will survive intact.