Engage and improve with social media

Dean Royles

22 / 10 / 2013 4.24pm

It's hard to believe how quickly social media has embedded itself within our daily lives. Over 50 per cent of people in the UK use social media sites regularly whereas only 34.2 per cent regularly read a newspaper. It's been a remarkable transformation in communication in the space of a few short years.

NHS Employers is taking an active role to promote and encourage the use of social media in the NHS as a way of engaging with staff.

The NHS is a large, complex organisation with 1.3 million staff. The NHS spends 60 to 70 per cent of its £106.1 billion budget on staffing. The NHS is blessed with some truly amazing staff. They do some incredible things every day. They work at the limits of science. They save lives, help bring new lives into the world and are there when care and compassion are what matters most helping people pass away with dignity. 

We know that improving staff engagement helps get the most out of the NHS’ huge investment in people. It's proven that engaged staff act in a positive way about the work they do, the people they work with and the organisation they work in. 

So a big question for us must be how can social media be used to increase staff engagement? Social media platforms offer NHS staff an opportunity to hear and see about the work that people do and the lives they lead and to understand what is being said about them and their services. This helps build cases for change and positivity throughout the organisation. Being open and transparent and asking for feedback helps develop better public and private services.
It's been a particularly challenging year for the NHS with changes in its structure and hierarchy. The publication of both the Francis report and the subsequent review by Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director make clear the need for cultural change to improve the quality of services for patients and highlight the positive impact that happy and engaged staff have on patient outcomes. It's been a seminal moment for the NHS and we need to use it to drive and accelerate change. 

There is a growing need for more transparency, more patient participation and better customer service. Social media is one way of listening to and acting upon peoples' views and experiences.  

As service reforms increase, maintaining contact and sending out a consistent message will become ever more important. Twitter is a great way to draw attention to your organisation’s websites and services - 140 characters may not seem a lot, but attaching a link means you can get lots of information to people quickly and effectively and people love engaging with it. 

More and more patients are going online in search of information about their condition and NHS services. We believe now is the time for NHS organisations to really embrace social media to engage with patients. Use it to listen, use it to engage, use it to seek feedback and ideas, but most of all use it to respond and improve. 

I know that there is still some anxiety and concern about abuse of systems or reputational damage, but we believe that we will find that there are hundreds of thousands out there who have had great experiences and want to share them with others. Be part of that conversation... 

Check out our dedicated social media section on our website. It hosts a range of materials highlighting the benefits of using social media to engage staff and patients. 

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