Professionalism on social media 

Social media offers networking opportunities to build relationships, share, influence and learn. It also requires careful use. As with any other form of communication, you need to remain professional and work within the law.

Registered members need to work within the regulatory guidance of the HCPC standards of proficiency and the standards of conduct, performance and ethics.    

The ease and speed with which you can post or comment can make it easy to forget your responsibilities. The rules around defamation, ethics and professionalism are no different from if you were writing a journal article. 

Remember your responsibilities 

Be familiar with your responsibilities as set out by your regulator and professional body: 

If you are regulated, the HCPC requires that your social media activity meets several of their standards of conduct, performance and ethics. View the HCPC guidance on social media for information. 

If you are employed, you are bound by any policies and procedures set out by your employer. The CSP regularly sees cases of members facing disciplinary processes due to inappropriate social media posts.

You need to be aware of your general duty not to bring your employer into disrepute even if your employer has not provided a specific social media policy.   

Developing a social media code 

Whether acting on your own or setting up a social media account for your team, you should consider developing a social media or community code.

The code will help you and your team act consistently and remain professional in your social media activities. The same principles apply to your use of social messaging applications, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.   

Data privacy and integrity 

Despite network privacy settings, assume that anything you post online will be accessible by anyone. You may not be able to remove it from the internet once it is online.

You can delete a post/message if you later decide you were wrong to publish it, but there’s always a chance that someone has taken a screenshot before you removed it. 

Checking the privacy policy updates

The social media networks sometimes change their privacy policies, so do check from time to time that your privacy settings remain as you want them. 

Take a moment before you post

Even in closed groups or on group messaging, don’t publish anything that you would regret others seeing or you would not say to someone directly in person.

If you had to justify your post to the person you’ve mentioned, your employer or your regulator, would you be able to do this? 

Be aware that social media posts, on behalf of an organisation, or by an individual for non-domestic purposes, fall under the requirements of the UK Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulations as well as European data protection legislation

Who owns the content you put out?

On most networks, you retain copyright on your original material when you post it. However, by signing up for their terms and conditions, you are normally giving the networks a license to re-use it how they wish.

If in doubt about how your content could be used, check the social media network’s terms of use and your account’s sharing permissions before posting. 

If you’re sharing something that isn’t already in the public domain and belongs to someone else – perhaps your employer – check whether you have permission before you post it. 

Sharing misinformation can impact your reputation, the profession and public health, and can be damaging. Consider the accuracy of posts/messages and use evidence to inform your practice.  

Privacy and consent 

Due to their open nature, it is a breach of patient confidentiality to discuss specific identifiable clinical cases on social media. Closed professional networks like interactiveCSP (iCSP) offer much more control over who will see your posts, but even then, you must maintain patient confidentiality unless you have permission to share the information.

You must not identify any patient, either through your post or in combination with details posted elsewhere, unless the patient gives you their express consent. They may and can remove their consent at any time. The patient should be aware you cannot guarantee that deleting or editing your post will remove it from anywhere it has already been shared. 

When posting photographs or videos from events, get consent from people who feature in them before you post. It may not be practical to ask everyone in the background of a shot, so let people know in advance that you’ll be filming and posting so they can opt out.

At large events, where it may not be possible to achieve this, delegates must be made aware that the event will be filmed and be given information on how footage/images will be used. Attendees should be informed that they do not hold the copyright for images taken during the event. You may do this through the event booking process and with clear messages during the event itself.   

Your privacy across professional and personal accounts

If you choose to have a single account for social and work purposes, do you want to have both groups seeing the same posts? Another approach is to have separate accounts for your social and professional worlds, with appropriate privacy settings on each one. 

Remember, if you are a regulated healthcare professional, your personal social media accounts are bound by the standards of your regulator, employer and professional body. Even if you’re not regulated, consider how your current social media life may be viewed if you become regulated in the future. 

Potential effects of your posts on future career prospects

You should be aware that future employers may check your social media accounts before confirming an offer of employment. They may withdraw an offer if their checks reveal social media content, including deleted content, that is incompatible with their values.

These pre-employment checks may cover your entire social media presence, including times when you were at school and long before you entered physiotherapy. 

Receiving friend requests from patients 

We advise you to politely decline a request to become friends with a patient who contacts you via your personal social media account.

An informal online relationship with a patient may put you at risk of breaching your professional responsibilities.

It may be that you have a professional reason to accept a request, for example, if you are sharing marketing material about your private practice. You should consider the risks carefully before you do so

Providing advice via social media

Think in advance how you would handle a request for health advice through your network. You might ask them to make an appointment or tell them that you can’t give them advice online. 

You have a professional duty of care where you provide tailored advice to individuals, based on their specific information. If you can’t provide reasonable care that meets your regulatory responsibilities through social media or you don’t think it is the appropriate channel, you should ask the patient to make an appointment to see you or another practitioner.


If you do offer advice online, use a disclaimer that says any advice you provide in this way is for information only, and if patients are unsure of its suitability for their specific circumstances, they should seek personal advice. 

Criticism and personal attacks on others

Don’t criticise individuals on social media by making personal attacks on that person or any of their personal attributes. You may think that you are only voicing an opinion, but personal comments may not be received well, may be misinterpreted or overstep the mark, and risk a libel claim or disciplinary action.

Any post could be seen to be defamatory (view the Defamation Act for reference) if you identify someone and say something that could be interpreted as damaging to their reputation, untrue, or deliberately exposes them to hatred or contempt.

It may be acceptable to challenge an organisation on its policies for example, but ensure you address your challenge to the generic corporate account rather than to any individual named employee of the organisation. Remember, all workers have a right to expect to be safe and free from harassment at work

Better ways to offer an opinion

Offering and evidencing an alternative view on a subject, rather than the person, is better and more likely to strengthen your point and positively build your reputation. Offensive or disrespectful language, on the other hand, is more likely to lower readers’ perceptions of both you and the profession.  

How to handle negative posts 

Not all postings on social media are positive. How best to respond depends on the seriousness of any negative post and on who posted it, and different responses are appropriate depending on the type of comment made.

The CSP uses a decision tree to guide staff in deciding whether and how to respond. You may wish to adapt this for your use: 

Scenario A: How to respond to a negative post  

Question: Is it factually incorrect?  

  • Answer: Yes 

Question: Is it from a troll (definition of a troll is below)?

  • Answer: Yes – don’t respond.
  • Answer: No – correct their error in a measured tone. 

(A troll is a term for someone who posts deliberately provocative comments with the intention of causing disruption and argument). 

Scenario B: How to respond to a negative post  

Question: Is it factually incorrect?  

  • Answer: No 

Question: Has there been a poor customer experience? 

  • Answer: Yes – apologise and remedy 
  • Answer: No – assess whether a reply would be helpful 

Setting up clear policies on community use and commenting

Have a clear community use and commenting policy if you run a Facebook page, a forum or a blog to reduce the chance of receiving negative posts. In your policy, you can set out what constitutes inappropriate behaviour and under what circumstances you will remove posts or report posters to the network. 

If someone complains about you removing an unsuitable post, you should be able to show that it breaches your published community use commenting policy. 

  • Don’t delete comments just because you don’t like or agree with them – your followers will soon pick up on this and may escalate the problem. 

How to show your relationship with the CSP when using social media

Although we ask that you don’t use the letters CSP in your account name, nor the CSP corporate logo in your account image, you may promote your CSP membership through your social media biography, e.g. ‘Chartered physiotherapist, practising privately in Durham’. 

You might like to join the thousands of other CSP members who follow us on LinkedIn and/or X (formerly Twitter), like our Facebook page, or subscribe to our YouTube channel, to keep up with the latest news from the profession. 

Useful resources 

Follow up questions?

If you have any further questions about professional issues when using social media, our professional advisers may be able to help. Email our enquiries team or call them on: +44 (0)20 7306 6666.

Last reviewed: