NHS chiefs at one of Britain’s worst hospitals have come up with a bizarre strategy for improving patient care – allowing staff to use TWITTER and FACEBOOK on the wards.
The odd policy announcement was issued days after Sir Bruce Keogh named and shamed 11 failing NHS Trusts which had unacceptably high mortality rates.
Following the damning report, bosses at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHNT) – one of the authorities placed in special measures – sent an email to staff urging them to access social media during work hours.
Earlier this week two nurses and a healthcare worker from another NHS Trust were caught Tweeting about patients and posting pictures of themselves wearing incontinence pads and making indecent comments about patients.
Staff in Lincoln are now encouraged to use Twitter and Facebook from hospital computers “for their own communications”.
An email, which was sent from the Trust’s Communications Team on July 29, highlighted a scheme of ‘quick wins’ to improve performance across its ailing hospitals.
It told staff: “We have taken the step to open up all social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, for use by Trust staff.
“From now on, you will be able to access these websites from all Trust computers.”
The policy was one of the first repsonses to the announcement that the Trust was named as one of the worst in Britain in the damning Keogh review.
The move means doctors and nurses can post on sites such as Facebook and Twitter during work hours, sparking fears they could be distracted from treating patients.
Before the Keogh review was published, ULNHT staff could not access social networks on hospital networks.
A hospital worker, who did not want to be named, said:
“Managers say it’s to help staff communicate between hospitals but that’s rubbish.
“We already have an internal email and computer system funded at great expense by the taxpayer which we can use for that.
“The new policy even includes computers on the nurses’ stations.
“There have been no formal complaints yet but myself and other colleagues have overheard patients complaining about nurses using the computer while they’ve been forced to wait.
“The last thing this hospital and its patients need is staff getting distracted by Facebook and Twitter whilst at work.
“It’s hard to see how staff can focus on change at the same time as being allowed to fritter away time on social media.
“These computers are all over the wards.
“Previously Twitter and Facebook were blocked but now they’re unblocked, it doesn’t make any sense.
“Why do we want to give staff the option of spending time posting Tweets or looking at pictures on Facebook when they should be treating patients?
“I think the root cause is all the layers of management in the NHS – you’ve got people with no real clinical knowledge or background in patient care managing doctors and nurses.
“It makes my blood boil, all these people are dying and all they care about is social media.”
But yesterday a Trust spokeswoman defended the move, saying it was intended to promoted “openness and transparency” within the organisation.
A spokeswoman said: “It is not unusual for NHS Trusts to make social networking sites available for their staff.
“We made the decision to open up access to social networking sites as a result of staff feedback that we needed to explore new ways of ensuring effective communication with our employees across four hospital sites.
“This is one of many actions taken to improve communication with staff and to encourage a culture of trust, openness and transparency within the organisation.”
ULHNT was rated among the worst of 11 Trusts placed under ‘close watch’ after Sir Bruce Keogh’s review into hospital death rates was published in July this year.
Inspectors found there had been 12 ‘never’ events – potentially life-threatening but avoidable mistakes – within the trust.
ULHNT announced this week it was to hire dozens of foreign nurses after staffing levels were criticised.