Social media and professionalism: a retrospective content analysis of Fitness to Practise cases heard by the GDC concerning social media complaints

Key Points

  • Provides results of the first study to investigate the incidence of social media Fitness to Practise (FtP) cases investigated by the GDC since it established social media guidelines in 2013.

  • Demonstrates that most of the complaints were made against dental nurses and the most common type of complaint was in relation to inappropriate Facebook comments.

  • Suggests that social media awareness training should be an integral part of undergraduate and CPD training.


Introduction Since 2013, all General Dental Council (GDC) registrants' online activities have been regulated by the GDC's social media guidelines. Failure to comply with these guidelines results in a Fitness to Practise (FtP) complaint being investigated.

Aims This study explores the prevalence of social media related FtP cases investigated by the GDC from 1 September 2013 to 21 June 2016.

Method Documentary analysis of social media related FtP cases published on the GDC's website was undertaken. All cases that met the study's inclusion criteria were analysed using a quantitative content analysis framework.

Findings It was found that 2.4% of FtP cases published on the GDC website during that period were related to breaches of the social media guidelines. All of the cases investigated were proven and upheld. Most of those named in the complaints were dental nurses and the most common type of complaint was inappropriate Facebook comments.

Conclusions The low incidence rate should be interpreted with caution, being illustrative of the types of issues that might arise rather than the volume. The GDC will need to remain vigilant in this area and ensure that social media awareness training is an active part of CPD for all the dental team.

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Correspondence to P. Neville.

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Neville, P. Social media and professionalism: a retrospective content analysis of Fitness to Practise cases heard by the GDC concerning social media complaints. Br Dent J 223, 353–357 (2017).

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