Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust has launched an internal investigation after staff made inappropriate comments on social media over a newspaper report about an attempted suicide.

The local Sunday Sun newspaper reported that three staff members at the mental health trust were reported by a patient after making comments on a Facebook link to a story in the Daily Mirror.

The story concerned a man in China who, according to the Mirror, attempted to commit suicide and was blasted back from a window ledge with a high-pressure hose.

The local newspaper report said that one of the staff joked about writing this into their own contingency plans. This prompted the other members of staff to agree, with one attaching the phrase “lol”, and the other using more derogatory language.  

The comments, made on a publicly viewable Facebook profile, were spotted by a patient under care by the health professionals who subsequently reported them to the trust.

 The Sunday Sun reported that the patient has since discharged herself from the unit she was in and that she is now “extremely reluctant to contact services for support” and unsure of who to trust.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear’s director of nursing and operations told EHI in a statement that it has developed a “strong set of values with its staff” and they are all expected to live up to those standards.

“The trust cannot and will not tolerate any behaviour which stigmatises those who need our services or belittles the condition that they live with, and the impact on their lives,” he said.

“A full investigation will be undertaken into this matter and appropriate action taken following that investigation."

Last year NHS Employers issued guidance on social media that called for greater clarity on professional behaviour and confidentiality, combined with a more permissive approach in encouraging staff to use social media safely.