Only a third of primary care trusts are using social media to communicate with patients, according to a survey conducted by NHS Salford.

The primary care trust conducted a survey of England’s 148 PCTs last month and found 36% are on the social networking site Facebook and 28% are using Twitter.

NHS Salford said most of these PCTs were using social media to promote health information, with the Department of Health’s flagship website NHS Choices gaining the highest profile from the promotion.

The majority of PCTs had around 200 Facebook ‘friends’ and about 60% of the sites were actively used. PCTs managed to attract an average of 400 followers to Twitter and 88% of the accounts were active.

NHS Salford said the larger a following a PCT had the more likely it was to use social media. Some organisations were actively asking for comment and views on a range of services.

Karl Brookes, NHS Salford’s head of communication, said good communication had always been about using the appropriate channels at the right time to reach the right people.

He added: “Clearly social media is one of these channels and Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have been around long enough to ensure it’s not just a fad.”

NHS Salford, was one of the first PCTs to start using social media actively. It has 589 Twitter followers and 247 Facebook friends and has used the sites to reach groups such as students and promote smoking cessation services.

The PCT has issued tips to other NHS organisations that want to use social media. These include actively using the sites, proactively adding people to the trust’s Facebook page, and managing staff breakaways and multiple accounts which “can allow negative/positive comment to go unnoticed.”