Social media is a platform which can be extremely valuable to social workers and healthcare professionals alike.

It can help build knowledge, create connections and generate online conversations, as well as constructing and reinforcing a global professional identity. General resilience and a supportive community can be created online, which is useful to healthcare experts when safeguarding service users.

Furthermore, social media can also be used for whistleblowing in order to help prevent and protect service users from harm or damage.

Revised standards of conduct recently published by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) stated that social workers must report concerns about the safety of service users and be open when this goes wrong.

phoneicon

The revision by HCPC presents three new standards and, in the coming months, is due to develop more specific guidance for registrants around the use of social media.

The standards introduced by HCPC set out in broad terms what is expected of social workers, by both service users and fellow professionals.

Michael Guthrie, director of policy and standards for the HCPC, said the standard on social media was designed to make it clear that communication on the platform should be seen as the same as any other form of communication, and decisions around what is appropriate to share should be made accordingly.

Here we take a look at the three new standards published by the HCPC.

1. Appropriate and effective communication

This standard now directly refers to social media and covers communicating with service users and carers as well as working with colleagues.

As well as being polite and considerate, social workers are expected to listen to service users and carers and take account of their needs and wishes. They must also give users and carers the information they want in a way which they can understand.

The report states: “You must use all forms of communication responsibly and appropriately, including social media and networking sites.”

phoneicon

Where possible, arrangements must also be made to meet service users’ and carers’ language and communication needs.

2. Concerns about safety must be reported

Here, the standard stresses that any concerns about the safety or well-being of service users must be reported both promptly and appropriately. Support and encouragement must also be given to others so that no-one is prevented from raising concerns.

“You must take appropriate action if you have concerns about the safety or well-being of children or vulnerable adults,” reads the report.

“You must make sure that the safety and well-being of service users always comes before any professional or other loyalties.”

icon

3. Be open when things go wrong

When things don’t go as planned, registrants must be open and honest, informing service users and apologising where necessary. Previous standards omitted the need to include a specific requirement about informing service users and their carers where mistakes or errors were made.

If possible, taking action to put things right is recommended and service users or their carers should “receive a full and prompt explanation of what has happened and any likely effects.”

Although the HCPC believes that reporting concerns about safety is an individual duty, the standard recognises a general duty to contribute to a culture of openness within an organisation.

This standard comes following the report of the Francis Inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, which proposed that professionals should have a ‘duty of candour’.

icon

Development of a new body

Earlier this month, education secretary Nicky Morgan said that social workers must continue to adhere to the HCPC standards while awaiting more information about the development of a new body which hopes to drive up standards.

The education secretary said that a new approach to the regulation of social workers was needed.

According to HCPC council member Robert Templeton, the process of developing the new standards had highlighted not only how the HCPC affects social work practice, but also how workers had altered the HCPC since being included on its register in 2012.

There are many online training courses available which can aid registrants concerned about their professionalism in the healthcare environment.

icon

Sources:
Whistle-blowing and social media get focus in revised social conduct standards
5 reasons why Social Workers should use Social Media
Standards of conduct, performance and ethics