'Social Media policies (NHS Scotland)', Hole Ousia website, 9 December 2014:
"In the previous post I outlined my experience of seeking transparency in the Health Board in which I was employed.
I was asked by senior managers to reflect on my “behaviour” for
seeking transparency. From the senior managers perspective I had not
followed the social media policy issued by my Health
Board. I was thus invited to meet with senior managers about this. It
was eventually concluded that I had not breached any of my employers’
More than a year on I still feel the angst that this meeting caused
me. A meeting where I had been summoned, was told I could “bring” a
union representative, and where I ended up having to defend my
professional character. This meeting was designated by my employers as
an “informal meeting” (I assume in terms of employment law). The result is that any such “informal” meetings do not need to be recorded by the Health Board.
My concern over such an arrangement is that it risks facilitating an
imbalance of power that favours the employer. I am aware of health
professionals who have resigned from health boards following such
In my particular case, the senior managers focussed on one policy in particular. This was the Social Media policy
of the Health Board. Actually to be factually correct, the NHS Board in
which I was employed had two social media policies: one for “personal use” and another for “business use”.
To me it felt like these policies were being used to stop me seeking
transparency. Furthermore it was very much as if the Health Board’s
priority was not the same as mine. I was trying to put patients first.
I have no expertise in developing policies for Health Boards.
However, it is clear that there are significant differences between
different Scottish Health Boards in terms of their approach to employees
use of social media.
For example, employees of Healthcare Improvement Scotland are
encouraged to use social media at work. Many staff, including senior
staff have what would appear to be professional social media accounts.
It is most surprising then that Healthcare Improvement Scotland have no social media policy for their staff. [FOI request: reply from Healthcare Improvement Scotland, dated 18 June 2014 “We do not hold a formal policy on employee use of social media”] It has recently been clarified that Healthcare Improvement Scotland staff are guided by” a “code of conduct policy” and a “Social Media Guidance” document.
NHS Ayrshire and Arran has
a social media policy (now 4 months beyond review date) that is
publicly accessible. It is a clearly written 6 page policy that is
strikingly different in approach to that of NHS Forth Valley
NHS Highland takes a similar approach to NHS Ayrshire and Arran
and both would appear to be of the view that social media can bring
benefits to continuing education of healthcare staff when used with
careful guidance but not exhaustive restrictions.
Views on use of social media will naturally vary. Social media have the potential for both good and harm. Rev Eli Jenkins in “Under Milkwood” would likely agree.
“We are not wholly bad or good
Who live our lives under Milk Wood,
And Thou, I know, wilt be the first
To see our best side, not our worst.”
Some NHS Boards encourage use of social media as part of employment whilst other NHS Boards ban it outright. Some boards seem to go as far as monitoring personal use.
My view is that having no policy, such as Healthcare Improvement Scotland, risks loss of reasonable professional boundaries. The other problem is that if Healthcare Improvement Scotland wishes to use social media to support improvement work and education across Scotland, social media policies in some areas will prevent this.
I would like to see greater consistency across NHS Scotland in terms of extant policies in the use of social media.
Personally I would support the approach taken by NHS Ayrshire and Arran where
there is a clear policy in place which allows the use of social media
as long as this is consistent with good professional practice for all