The sign that earned a GP's practice a merciless mocking online
The sign that earned a GP's practice a merciless mocking online BBC

GP social media ban goes viral. Surprise surprise

A GP surgery in Britain has told its patients not to use social media to complain about service on Facebook and Twitter, warning of a "zero tolerance policy".

A poster at the St Lawrence Medical Practice in Braintree, Essex, which has since been changed, was put up after staff read personal comments online.

It read: "If you have any comments or complaints about the surgery please write to the practice manager.

"Do not use social media sites, Facebook/Twitter.

"Any comments we see on social media sites may be seen as a breach of our zero tolerance policy.

"We are happy to deal with your comments/complaints in the usual way."

The "zero tolerance policy" referred to appears to be NHS guidance on dealing with rude, abusive or aggressive behaviour towards staff.

Many people ridiculed a picture of the poster spread on social media but others said patients with issues should always tell a GP practice directly to improve the situation, rather than voicing concerns online.

Staff at the St Lawrence Medical Practice declined to comment when contacted by The Independent but the manager, Alison Rudkin, told the BBC the sign had been changed.

"I admit it wasn't worded well originally, so we have amended it and added another line at the bottom," she said.

"It now says: 'This ensures we can respond to people's concerns with patient confidentiality in mind.'"

She said online comments about the surgery that named staff and used swearwords were a "form of bullying" and had prompted the decision to put up the sign.

"We would much rather people come and see us in person if they have something they want to say," she told the BBC.

"We can't respond to people properly if they choose to make their comments on Facebook or Twitter."

A spokesperson from the Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group said: "We understand that the poster had been written incorrectly and put up in error but that it was taken down almost immediately and the practice has apologised for this mistake.

"We support all practices to follow policy in relation to patient complaints and to ensure patient confidentiality at all times."