Changes to the Good Medical Practice Guidance could see UK doctors struck off the register and face regulatory action for publishing misleading information on social media.
A review of the Guidance by the General Medical Council (GMC) has led to the drafting of new regulations which will seek to address toxic cultures in the workplace and regulate doctor’s public and social media communications. Under the proposed guidelines doctors could be sanctioned or see their professional careers jeopardized if found to be guilty of spreading ‘fake news’ on social media platforms.
The GMC has said, the review ‘sets out the standards of patient care and professional behavior expected of all medical professionals registered with us.’
GMC’s chief executive Charlie Massey said, ‘Good medical practice is the bedrock that helps guide ethical practice and supports doctors to provide the best possible care in a world of increasingly complex medicine,’ adding that while the fundamental principles of the guidance remained the same, they had been updated to reflect the modern world.
Massey added ‘We’ve had feedback that doctors want more clarity on using social media. We are already clear that doctors must be honest and trustworthy in their communications and are now emphasizing that this applies to all forms of communication. The principles remain the same whether the communication is written, spoken of via social media.’
If passed, the draft guidance will hold doctors accountable for promoting misleading information across all forms of communication. Doctors will be required to make clear the limits of their knowledge and will be penalized for stepping outside the areas of their expertise. Doctors will be required to be honest and trustworthy in their communications and make reasonable checks to ensure any information they give is not misleading. Online rows and trolling could also place their careers in jeopardy.
The review which plans to make changes to the Medical Guidance and the oath will see a restriction on doctors’ freedom of speech, freedom to question, and force doctors to censorship under the duress of potentially losing their careers.
Other than GMC’s broad statement regarding its guidance criteria it is unclear how the truth will be determined from misinformation or who in fact will make those determinations.
Under the centuries-old Oath, a doctor’s core pledge is to do their best to serve humanity and not intentionally cause harm to their patients. With the threat of being struck off the medical register in conjunction with the prevalence of ‘doctor censorship’ occurring globally across social media platforms, it is feasible that any scrutineering by a regulatory body may be guided by an already established narrative that is consistent with towing the Government line.
At this stage, the UK General Medical Council is calling for feedback on its draft proposal in an open invitation online. The consultation period is set to close on 20 July 2022.