The NHS Employers organisation has published guidance entitled 'HR and social media in the NHS', with the aim of promoting social media to make the health service more effective.
The report looks into reasons why social media supports high quality patient care.
It is suggested that social media could help patients to find the right information online; that it would allow the NHS to understand emerging developments among staff or patients (including quality of care issues) more quickly and in more detail; and that it would lead to stronger engagement between staff, employers and the public.
Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “I believe 2013 will be the year when the NHS significantly changes its view of social media. A tipping point has been reached and people throughout the NHS are recognising that the positive benefits of social media far outweigh its risks.
“I know some people have concerns about confidentially and reputational issues. In the NHS it isn't social media itself that's the issue, but the need for greatly clarity on professional behaviour and confidentiality combined with a more permissive approach in organisational policies encouraging staff to use social media safely. I hope our new guidance helps many organisations find that clarity.
“The NHS more than ever before wants to promote a culture where people can raise issues and be heard. Social media can be an important barometer of emerging issues, opinions and concerns, and we have a duty to listen and get involved.”
Alex Talbott, founder of the NHS social media hashtag #NHSSM and contributor of the new guidance, said:
"The NHS staff of tomorrow will all use the internet to improve their work. Many will have been educated by the UK’s schools, colleges and universities who will have provided online modules, revision apps and helpful multimedia. Collectively these future staff will demand and expect to use social media in their jobs. Human resources in the NHS has to come to terms with this and help lay the foundations for staff to use social media to improve their work."
Currently, guidelines in the NHS for use of social media suggest 'if you wouldn't say it in the canteen, don't type it'.