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Banning nurses from social media sites 'unworkable'

Trying to prevent nurses and other staff from using Twitter and Facebook in NHS settings is “unworkable”, health service managers have been told.

Guidance to help trusts draw up “common sense” rules for staff on social media were published last week by the health service management organisation NHS Employers.

It said many trusts had previously imposed blanket bans on staff from accessing social media platforms via their IT networks. But this was now changing because smartphones allowed access to social media whenever and wherever staff wanted.

The guidance stated: “A policy trying to prevent any social media use seems unworkable given the changing way that staff and the public interact with social media.”

NHS Employers also noted that social media should be viewed in a positive light and not just as a potential threat to patient confidentiality, for example. It cautioned that not allowing staff to use social media could actually be bad for a trust.

“A policy of ‘no social media use at work’ could affect an individual’s level of engagement with the organisation if it separates them from professional contacts,” the guidelines stated. “Similarly, a policy of open access to social media could increase their feeling of membership of an organisation by allowing them a space in which to ask questions and discuss issues.”

It added: “Having contented, well-motivated staff will lead to a more positive social media identity. Trying to prevent staff from having social media accounts which link them to the organisation takes away this opportunity. Staff will in any event use personal social media accounts.”

The briefing also suggested that social media provided a way for staff to get themselves listened to.  

“Staff must be able to speak up and suggest new ideas,” it said. “If they are not enabled to do this at work, social media offers them the chance to have their say.”

But the guidance cautioned that staff did not always understand the “shareable and public nature” of social media content.

“While few staff could be said to be maliciously using social media to break patient confidentiality, for example, there is a need to ensure your staff are aware of their responsibilities as an employee and a professional when using social media,” the briefing said.

It suggested the “same rules apply to the social media world as to the canteen, staff room or patient waiting area”.

The guidelines noted that four of the eight most high profile NHS users of Twitter were senior nurses or former nurses, including chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings, Department of Health director of nursing Viv Bennett and South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust chief executive Paula Vasco-Knight.

Readers' comments (12)

  • The briefing also suggested that social media provided a way for staff to get themselves listened to.

    “Staff must be able to speak up and suggest new ideas,” it said. “If they are not enabled to do this at work, social media offers them the chance to have their say.”

    But the guidance cautioned that staff did not always understand the “shareable and public nature” of social media content.

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    I think I've just read that the manager of Liverpool FC has just told-off one of his players, because the player admitted to 'inventing a foul' - strangely, I feel sure that Liverpool also has previously claimed that 'we don't condone diving' or the equivalent.

    Patient confidentiality is one thing - but managers also react badly to things that are true, put the hospital or whatever in a bad light, but probably should be shared with the public.

    There is quite a lot of two-faced attitude involved in this 'what should be divulged' issue !

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  • Does this mean NHS management are banned from using social media to do searches on applicants for jobs within the NHS as this would be classed as using social media in an NHS setting therefore agains there own polices.

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  • Twits "tweet" and fools do the "face" thing.

    Which perhaps explains why chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings, Department of Health director of nursing Viv Bennett are high profile users of these "social sites"

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  • Being neither a twit or a fool, I'm happy to 'tweet' and do the 'face' thing........but at home with my privacy settings regularly reviewed, not at work. Ain't got the time or inclination.

    However, I do have a very poor opinion of Cummings and Bennett which was formed for reasons too numerous to mention.

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  • Its the conduct of using such sites that is a problem, drunken pics with caption of "I look like im havng a stroke" . . . Discusting, disrespectful and uncaring.

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  • Social media websites are for everyone. Any conscientious nurse/health careers person orworkers should know tha the data protection act applies in all aspects....... that is if dont tell your love ones and friends then dont tell facebook etc. especially ore so as the CIA will be having their eyes on you

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  • Social media websites are for everyone so should not be witheld as a part of an agreed professional contract. Any conscientious nurse/health careers person or general workers should know that the data protection act applies in all aspects where ALL information sharing is concerned....... that is, if it considered that saying certain things are inditement to or is breaking the code of conduct and confidentiaity, i.e telling your love ones and friends about work base information, or in any way one considers certain behaviours to be causing deformation of the charecter to the profession or self through certain actions, then surely, neither should this behaviour be brought to social networking sites etc. Don't some people realise, ( or are forgetting) that these places are being constantly monitored by the CIA also?....Besides certain ethoses (in my humble opinion), should be naturally engrained within individuals who choose certain careers option and knowing how to behave should really be second nature. Sad stuff when health workers have little regards to the important standing they still have publically and are still holding outside of work time. Have fun by all means but leave risky job related aspects out of the fun and social side of online social networking surely? :(

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  • Anonymous | 20-Jan-2013 10:57 am

    you aroused my curiosity with 'ethoses' which looks rather strange.

    a quick search of google gives rather vague results but it does not appear to have a plural.

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  • Applying a blanket ban on social media at work via the Trust IT system has been policy for several years now. The system does not physically allow you to access certain sites, as has always been the case.

    If a member of the Trust is using a professional account then they are surely bound by the same standards as they would be if they were holding a public forum.

    The article does not imply that personal use of social media in the privacy of your own home should be banned, this would be a blatent breach of civil rights.

    I believe the NMC Code covers it all, no need to continually draw up more and more policy on the matter;

    "5 You must respect people’s right to confidentiality."

    "49 You must adhere to the laws of the country in which you are practising."

    "61 You must uphold the reputation of your profession at all times"

    The Code applies no matter what the circumstance, i.e. online or real life.

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  • you don't need social media when they are putting up all the information about you on boards in the wards.

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  • Ignorance is responsible for the social "mishaps".

    As correctly stated above the data protection act & the NMC Code has it all covered but who knows right from wrong?

    Educate, educate, educate (in my opinion) educating people on the subject of data protection, educating people on the pros and cons of using social media, educating employees on employers social media policies is the key and above all educate people on the basic principle of ethics.

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  • Ignorance is responsible for the social "mishaps".

    As correctly stated above the data protection act & the NMC Code has it all covered but who knows right from wrong?

    Educate, educate, educate (in my opinion) educating people on the subject of data protection, educating people on the pros and cons of using social media, educating employees on employers social media policies is the key and above all educate people on the basic principle of ethics.

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