Social media benefits outweigh risks

NHS managers should let their staff use social media more freely, new guidance says.

NHS Employers, the support and advisory service for employers in the NHS, has issued guidance calling for the health service to realise the benefits of social media and for a more permissive approach to staff use of social media platforms.

NHS Employers director, Dean Royles, said he believed 2013 will be the year when the NHS significantly changes its view of social media.

He added: “A tipping point has been reached and people throughout the NHS are recognising that the positive benefits of social media far outweigh its risks.

“The NHS, more than ever before, wants to promote a culture where people can raise issues and be heard,” said Royles.

“Social media can be an important barometer of emerging issues, opinions and concerns, and we have a duty to listen and get involved.”

Most NHS organisations already have social media policies, but these are usually modelled around the idea that; “if you wouldn’t say it in the canteen, don’t type it”. The guidance says these policies need to be developed further to help the NHS make the most of social media.

“Many organisations block social media platforms on their IT networks, blanket-banning their staff from them,” the guidance states.

“Social media platforms are critical to enabling the NHS to listen and use patients’ concerns and ideas to provide a clinically excellent and sustainable NHS.”

Royles said that many NHS managers are hesitant to let their staff use social media.

He called for: “greater clarity on professional behaviour and confidentiality combined with a more permissive approach in organisational policies encouraging staff to use social media safely.”

‘The HR and social media in the NHS’ is the latest of several social media guides issued by health services bodies in recent years.

In October 2012, the Royal College of General Practitioners launched its Social Media Highway Code. The new edition of the General Medical Council’s Good Medical Practice Guide, due to be released in March this year, will also include a large section on social media.



Last updated: 24 January 2013 12:01

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