Nurses have been warned to stop posting scantily clad photographs of themselves on social media.
The chief executive of The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said nurses who put photographs of themselves “not wearing very much” on internet sites risked harming the reputation of the profession.
Jackie Smith added that it was unacceptable for nurses and midwives to post insulting comments about patients on sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Ms Smith said: “Posting photographs of yourself not wearing very much, which is what we do see, that’s not acceptable because that is about being a professional.”
She added: “You are never off duty. If you’re a nurse or midwife it’s a 24/7 job. If you have a bad day at work, go home and think ‘I’m going to pick up Twitter or Facebook and put something on there about my colleagues or my boss or my patients’ – not acceptable.”
As a result of hospitals being deluged with complaints about lewd photographs of nurses on social media, the NMC has drawn up a set of social media guidelines under which nurses could be struck off.
It comes after the case of Caroline Luxford-Noyes, who was sacked by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS trust for posting picture of herself on the lavatory and wearing incontinence pads, and of Julie Dyde, who was dismissed by Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS trust for joking that frail patients were about to die and being too hung-over to work.
The guidelines also warn Britain’s 40,000 nurses they face disciplinary action if they pursue vendettas with colleagues or managers online or post photographs of patients.
The new guidelines also explicitly spell out that nurses have to make sure patients have enough to eat and drink, following outcries over the neglect of patients, particularly during the Midd Staffs scandal.
Ms Smith told The Times: “You could have assumed in the past that as a professional, giving people food and water would have been something they would have done automatically.
“So this is where the code is different. We are taking account of what’s happened over the past few years and saying to ourselves, do we need to be really explicit in some areas, and the fundamentals of care is one.”
She said the guidelines were not about passing moral judgment on nurses, but designed to getting rid of behaviour which “doesn’t look right” and had the effect of undermining public confidence.
“Just think about this. Just think about what it actually means to wear the uniform, to wear the badge. We’re not saying you can’t have fun,” said Ms Smith.