Braintree Surgery Bans Social Media Comments

A GPs Surgery In Braintree Has Banned Patients From Complaining On Social Media Platforms


The St Lawrence Medical Practice in Braintree has asked its patients not to post comments or complaints about members of staff on social media platforms.

Alison Rudkin, practice manager, agreed for a sign to be placed at the entrance to the surgery telling people that there was a "zero tolerance policy" on people discussing their experiences online.

The sign noted that complaints made via the normal channels were still welcomed and would be dealt with as normal, reports the BBC.

According to Ms Rudkin, the move came after it was found that patients were using "appalling language" to describe members of staff. This is something she argues is an example of bullying, which the surgery is trying to stamp out.

"[We do] not tolerate rude, abusive or aggressive behaviour, in any form, to any member of our staff," she said.

"We would much rather people come and see us in person if they have something they want to say. We can't respond to people properly if they choose to make their comments on Facebook or Twitter."

However, some critics have argued this move prevents patients from being able to effectively air their grievances - with the NHS's official complaints process regularly maligned for being overly bureaucratic.

When the BBC tried to reach the Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group for comment, it received no response.

GPs themselves have an extensive social media code set out by the General Medical Council (GMC). 

The guidance was drawn up in 2013 and was developed using other healthcare services' social media policies.

Confidentiality is a top priority for the GMC and doctors are banned from sharing "identifiable information" about patients where it might be seen by members of the public.

However, a similar code of conduct does not exist for patients, who are given the freedom to criticise doctors and nurses - as long as their claims are not litigious our could constitute libel.

Expert Opinion
Complaints about care quality and standards through social media have been growing dramatically in recent years, as patients feel more comfortable making their voices heard through this platform. However, this is an avenue that has been closed down in this cases.

“While abusive language or aggressive behaviour from patients towards staff is unacceptable, it is vital the NHS offers patients a complaints procedure they feel comfortable with and confident in, as any issues raised need to be resolved as soon as possible.

“All too often we have seen the damage that can be caused when individuals receive treatment that does not meet the required standards, so failings raised by patients need to be understood, analysed and addressed to ensure high standards are retained within the NHS.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner