A published guidance to help the NHS realise the benefits of social media and implement a more permissive approach to its use.
'HR and social media in the NHS' explains that social media is increasingly becoming central to the ongoing effectiveness of the NHS.
It argues that there is a need for a more open approach alongside greater clarity on professional behaviour and the importance of confidentiality.
The guidance provides examples to help human resources managers, leaders and communications staff use social media more effectively within their organisations.
It highlights three key reasons why social media supports high quality patient care:
- social media is used increasingly by patients to help them understand the growing number of healthcare choices and the quality of services available to them. The NHS should be helping patients find the right information online
- it allows the NHS to understand emerging developments among staff or patients more quickly and in more detail, including any concerns about the quality of care, so that services can be improved
- it supports stronger engagement between staff, employers and the public, which patients say improves the quality of care.
Most NHS organisations have policies covering the use of social media and these are usually modelled around the idea: 'if you wouldn't say it in the canteen, don't type it'. HR and social media in the NHS explains that these measures help prevent social media being misused but they need to be developed further to help the NHS make the most of social media.
The guidance recommends some initial steps for staff and managers who want to start using or managing social media:
- keep an eye on the #nhssm hashtag on twitter. The hashtag stands for NHS social media and is run by a community of like-minded individuals who give helpful advice on how to use social media effectively
- speak to colleagues who are active on social media and read their blogs. There are some great examples of healthcare professionals already using social media successfully.
- sign up to quality social media sites that contain the latest news, views and statistics on social media.
The guidance also describes potentially challenging social media scenarios. It calls on NHS managers to consider what new arrangements could be put in place locally to address such situations, given the rapid expansion of social media.