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Principle One

Put patient's interests first


Principle Two

Communicate effectively with patients


Principle Three

Obtain valid consent


Principle Four

Maintain and protect patients' information


Principle Five

Have a clear and effective complaints procedure


Principle Six

Work with colleagues in a way that is in patients' best interests


Principle Seven

Maintain, develop and work within your professional knowledge and skills


Principle Eight

Raise concerns if patients are at risk


Principle Nine

Make sure your personal behaviour maintains patients' confidence in you and the dental profession


Principle Four

Maintain and protect patients' information


Learning Material Case Study

Use of social media

​Miss Smith is a dentist working in a practice. The owner of the practice decided to set up a Facebook account to publicise the services the practice offered.

Although Miss Smith did not operate the practice account, she linked her own personal account to that of the practice.

Following the launch of the practice Facebook page, Miss Smith received ‘friend requests’ from some of her patients, which she accepted.

One of these patients then complained to the GDC that, when looking at some of Miss Smith’s previous postings, they saw that she appeared to have made derogatory comments about some of the patients she had treated, although the patients were not named. The patient also complained that some of the photographs posted on Miss Smith’s Facebook page were inappropriate for a dentist.

The fitness to practise caseworker considered that Miss Smith may have breached a number of the standards and guidance in Standards for the Dental Team including (but not limited to):

  • 4.2.3 You must not post any information or comments about patients on social networking or blogging sites.
  • 9.1 You must ensure that your conduct, both at work and in your personal life, justifies patients’ trust in you and the public’s trust in the dental profession.
  • 9.1.3 You should not publish anything that could affect patients’ and the public’s confidence in you, or the dental profession, in any public media, unless this is done as part of raising a concern.

The Investigating Committee looked at the comments and photographs and took the view that some of them were inappropriate for any dental professional to make or publish. However, it also noted that shortly after receiving the complaint, Miss Smith had closed down her Facebook account and apologised to the patient in question. On this occasion, the Investigating Committee was satisfied that Miss Smith understood her conduct had been inappropriate and had taken steps to rectify the negative impact of her actions. Miss Smith was issued with a letter of advice.

​We recognise that social networking sites and other social media can be an effective and entertaining way of communicating, but you do need to be careful. You have an responsibility to behave professionally both online and offline.

Images and comments posted online can impact on your professional life and could result in the dental profession being brought into disrepute.

It is important to remember that anything that you post on a social media site is instantly in the public domain and can be copied and distributed without your consent or your knowledge. So you should not post anything that you would not be happy for anyone to see.

You should check your privacy settings regularly to make sure that your information is not accessed by people you would not want to see it.

You need to remember that even if you don’t identify yourself as a dental professional, your registration could still be at risk if you choose to behave inappropriately whilst using social media. You should think carefully before accepting friend requests from patients and before posting pictures of your personal life.

If you are unsure whether a comment or image is suitable to be published, then do not post it.

Our Guidance on using social networking sites and other social media provides further advice.