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Pharmacists must be alert to social media ‘curse’, PDA warns

People Pharmacists should be wary of posting on social networking sites, the PDA has warned, after C+D readers reported their employers had issued warnings or even taken disciplinary action over the use of social media.

Pharmacists should be wary of posting on social networking sites, the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) has warned, after three quarters of C+D readers said their employers had issued warnings or disciplinary action over the use of social media.

Seventy-four per cent of C+D readers felt their employers' social media policies were strict, with just over half of those saying employers had taken disciplinary action against employees who had mentioned the company on sites such as Facebook and Twitter and the remainder saying they frequently received warnings over social media use.

Just over a quarter of the poll respondents felt they could say what they wanted online.

"Understand your own personal and private settings, don't divulge any confidential information or make any disparaging remarks about your boss" John Murphy, PDA

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Social media had proved to be "a bit of a curse", said the PDA, because pharmacy employees could find themselves unfairly subjected to disciplinary action. PDA director John Murphy said one pharmacist had faced proceedings after a colleague inaccurately accused them of unprofessional behaviour on a social networking site.

"We've [also] had experiences of employers being able to search social media sites, get information on people and bring them to disciplinary procedures, so we say: beware of who can see you on social media sites," he told C+D.

"Our advice is: if you're going to use it, understand your own personal and private settings, don't divulge confidential information or make any disparaging remarks about your boss, company or colleagues."

A copy of Boots' social networking policy, which staff have to sign and was leaked to C+D, revealed Boots' "zero tolerance" towards "any unprofessional or potentially unlawful behaviour" on social media.

An anonymous Boots employee told C+D they were not aware of any colleagues being disciplined over social media use, but said he was reluctant to add a Boots manager as a friend on Facebook as it could be used as "a way of watching what pharmacists are doing". Boots did not respond to requests for information on its social media policy.

The Co-operative Pharmacy said it had revised its code of confidentiality to include guidance on social media. "We fully understand pharmacy businesses need to embrace the use of social media to engage with customers," said the multiple's NHS standards manager Ifti Khan. "However, business and patient confidentiality, in addition to information security, must be protected." Lloydspharmacy was unable to comment on its social media policy.

In the September 2011 issue of its bimonthly publication Regulate, the General Pharmaceutical Council warned registrants that social networking sites were "not appropriate forums to discuss patients" and that "pharmacy professionals should not make derogatory comments about individual patients or patient groups".


What are your (employer's) policies on social networking?

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