Social media use advice for professional registrants

Most of us use social media and we understand that many registrants may wish to use it to express anxieties, concerns and complaints.

However, it remains important that registrants raise concerns responsibly and that social media is used appropriately.

This page is a reminder of some of the key professional issues in using social media and contains advice on raising concerns.

We strongly support the right of staff to raise concerns and speak up and have been advocating for the health workforce throughout this emergency. It’s important to us that you are protected and do not inadvertently put your registration at risk.

Both the NMC and HCPC codes of conduct contain sections on the use of social media;

For nurses, midwives and nursing assistants;

NMC – ’20.10 – Use all forms of spoken, written and digital communication (including social media and networking sites) responsibly, respecting the right to privacy of others at all times’

For AHPs regulated by HCPC;

HCPC – ‘2.7 – You must use all forms of communication appropriately and responsibly, including social media and networking websites’

Registrants have a duty to uphold trust in their profession and so must be able to justify information they share on social media. This is particularly important at a time of public health emergency when unfounded claims can undermine trust and public health messaging.

Registrants also have a duty to protect the privacy of others. Sharing identifiable information on social media threatens this and leaves the registrant at risk.

This could be as simple as sharing a photo you have taken to express frustration at others not adhering to social distancing. This could be seen as a breach of privacy, as you do not have the persons consent to photograph them or post it.

In a rare off moment, you and colleagues may have a laugh and post some funny moments on social media but at all times you have to avoid things which could negatively affect the reputation of the profession.

It’s crucial that health and care workers are able and confident to speak up about issues that concern them.

We consider any ‘gagging’ of registrants unacceptable and support our members to raise their concerns and to whistle-blow if their concerns are not addressed. Any registrant who needs to speak should be supported and assisted to do so appropriately and safely.

We encourage registrants in health and care to;

  • Raise concerns formally with their employers and line managers first and foremost – if they don’t know they can’t act. Make a record of the issue, when you raised it and with who.
  • Contact your local UNISON branch who will help you raise concerns and to whistle-blow if considered necessary. Our stewards can also refer to our organisers and officers for further professional support if needed. UNISON representatives can also raise concerns on your behalf if you feel unable or are afraid to.
  • In England you can talk to your freedom to speak up ‘guardians’. These are people within NHS trusts who have a role in their organisations to support those raising concerns. Scottish Health boards are appointing ‘Whistleblowing champions’ who can assist you.

Remember, if your employer or regulator ever contact you and want to meet you to discuss a work-related matter your first call is to UNISON so we can start to support you.

UNISON is here to support you and to help make your services as safe as possible.