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Scenarios: Acting unprofessionally

Seemingly small events can have serious professional consequences, as the following cases illustrate.

A medical student was celebrating the end of exams and set off the fire alarm in a busy pub. He was charged with criminal damage by police

What happened?

When he finished medical school and applied for registration he had to declare the caution. The Medical Council investigated the case and also required that the doctor see a psychiatrist to ensure he did not have an alcohol problem. They decided at the early stages of the investigation that he should receive a warning that will stay on his registration for five years.

A junior posted comments on Facebook but did not provide any staff or patient ID. However, he referred to “two mad old ladies” and made one or two other inappropriate comments about unspecified patients and staff

What happened?

The posting was seen by a member of staff and sent to the Medical Director. Disciplinary action was instigated and he was given a written warning by the hospital. This was not referred to the Medical Council due to the doctor’s apology and he deleted all work-related comments on Facebook.

The point here is that although there is no breach of confidentiality, as a doctor you should be professional at all times.

The point here is that although there is no breach of confidentiality, as a doctor you should be professional at all times

A number of issues arise with the increased use of social networking; in particular, patient confidentiality and professionalism. The principle of confidentiality is central to trust between patients and doctors. The Medical Council’s Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics states that: “Patients are entitled to expect that information about them will be held in confidence. You should not disclose confidential patient information to others except in certain limited circumstances, outlined in paragraphs 26 to 30.”

A junior doctor placed a false work history on her CV. She claimed she had worked in places she had not

What happened?

This was a serious matter as the doctor had been dishonest. For a variety of reasons, not least because the doctor denied she had been dishonest, despite the overwhelming evidence, she was struck off the register.

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