Social media (Julie Grant, Head of comms, Nottinghamshire Healthcare Foundation NHS Trust)

This guest post from our head of comms, Julie Grant, is a response to a piece on our blog here.

As Head of Communications for the Trust I share some of the responsibility for the public relations and reputation management talked about here. I am also a firm champion of engagement and involvement – but in fact the two can live together. We have been engaging with social media for a couple of years and as with other online tools we started quietly and waited to see how it developed. When we first started using Patient Opinion I was worried that it was a very public way to hear about complaints and gripes about our services. In fact – although we do have some of those – I now realise that the vast majority of postings are positive in tone. When we get things wrong, as we sometimes do, then a public response to that is a really strong message about how much we value the feedback of our service users and patients (and an opportunity to make things right).

We have had real conversations on social media, with people in crisis or who just need signposting to the correct service. We try and be responsive, helpful and make a difference for someone. We can’t be online 24 hours a day but it is a measure of our commitment to this area that we have recently created and recruited to a New Media Specialist post. Nina is helping us make better use of social media in a meaningful way.

I agree completely that you can’t control social media – it is definitely the people’s voice. I’d welcome any ideas to improve what we do or how we engage – we are delivering your services and we want to know from you as to how we can do things better. I also think we are being more open and honest with the way we use it. There was a recent tweet about the lack of funding for CAMHS services, something about which I feel strongly. However I was worried that I was engaging the Trust in a political argument. I took the views of the team and we decided that most mental health trusts would agree with this view and so I retweeted – with more people retweeting after that. So we’re open to challenge and we’re trying our best – but we know we can do better and we’ll look to continually develop new media in an innovative and creative way, whilst not abandoning more traditional communications tools. Anyone for Periscope?!

Engagement in the digital age (Paul Radin)

Today we have two guest posts, from different sides of the desk, one from an Involvement Volunteer (Paul Radin) and one from the Trust’s head of comms (Julie Grant). To see Julie’s response please go here.

Social Media is a massive opportunity for the NHS. An opportunity to engage with Patients and Public on a scale and to a depth never before possible. It’s easily the best engagement tool to arrive since the printing press. So isn’t it time we started making good use of it?

Generally, in NHS organisations, the initial responsibility for ‘coping with’ Social Media falls to the communications department. The approach taken is usually defensive: all about Reputation Management and Public Relations. The communication is one-way. It’s about telling people what you want them to think.

What a waste! When the obvious potential lies in the opportunity to have conversations with Patients, Members and Communities.

In my opinion, the way to get digital strategies right is for them to be led by someone who understands and believes in the concepts of Involvement and Engagement. Traditional communications should step aside. The curtain is coming down… it’s time to get off the stage.

“Valuable conversations take place at the borderline of what we understand, with people who are different to ourselves.” Theodore Zeldin

Brands like ours can no longer be sustained by old style one-way communications. Spin does more reputational harm than good. Brands now depend upon what consumers are saying to each other.

Conversations about healthcare will happen, whether we like it or not, with or without input from the NHS. These conversations have always existed, even before the internet age, but now Social Media gives us the opportunity to be part of those discussions, to respond quickly to urgent concerns, and always know what our patients think about services.

… and before we get all the usual, feeble excuses, 21st century digital engagement doesn’t have to be labour intensive, if you let people talk to each other instead of thinking that you need to ‘control’ everything, then the response ratio could be 1 to 30 perhaps, not 1 to 1. The secret, if there is one, is to take part, not take over.

The Five Year Forward View challenges us to “raise the game on health technology – radically improving patients’ experience of interacting with the NHS”. Now is the time to take that leap forward. To boldly go where no Trust has gone before.

In keeping with the spirit of Engagement, this short piece is intended to be a conversation starter. Therefore I would very much welcome comments. Whether you agree with the points I have raised or not, please chip in.
Any argument needs opposition, to test, to challenge, to probe for weaknesses. The resulting proposition is stronger for it, and in the end all sides win.

Paul Radin, Notts FT Involvement Volunteer. Twitter: @paul_radin

Binta’s Blog Chapter 1 Communication & Social Media

Binta’s Blog Chapter 1

My name is Binta Jammeh. I am a Volunteer at the Involvement Centre in Nottingham and a Service User

I have  recently joined  a new  group about communication based at our Nottingham Involvement Centre. This includes communication about Involvement and what it is all about within the Trust.  Some of this communication is about feedback and the use of  social media. We met at the Involvement Centre, Duncan Macmillan House Nottingham. The meeting was led by Jonathan Wright , Involvement Centre Manager and Jane Danforth,  Involvement and Experience Officer for the Involvement Team and a group of volunteers.

The communications group meeting was significant as we talked about  how to get people to engage both online and in traditional ways when communicating information about what we do to involve people in our Trust services.

There was a discussion about Patient Opinion, an online independent feedback website which is an independent website about feedback from our services. It  helps the Trust to generate different ideas and make changes and improvements through stories left on Patient Opinion online. The feedback also shows where the Trust has provided a great service to service users, carers,  families  and friends. We also have a feedback website at the Trust called  ‘Your Feedback Matters’.

We discussed how  Involvement Volunteers and members of staff can work together as a team to build strong communication channels internally at the Trust and externally.

As service user volunteers, we can also set an agenda to influence how to reach people with the right information about the Trust and services by using social media and face-to-face communication.

I found the meeting very interesting and educating. I personally learned about the great services that are provided by the Trust and also the team work that members of staff and volunteers has brought together  to provide better services.

Binta Jammeh – Involvement Volunteer

Unsocial media

Lessons for the NHS here wethinks…


Hi everyone!

This is how I get school letters ….


…… of course that’s assuming I get them at all! Our teenagers pre screen letters and only hand me the “important ones” and the forgetfulness and disorganisation that comes with dyslexia means that our littlest child often fails to recall a letter has even been handed out.  I used to think that communication systems within the NHS were archaic but at least in the NHS we rely on Royal Mail and not an 8 year old with dyslexia to convey important missives! Being both a working mum and having children in two different schools i don’t have time to hang around at the start or end of the school day and have virtually no communication or discourse with the schools … so a crumpled up letter in the bottom of a bag is as good as it gets.

So you can…

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